The neurodevelopmental disorders can be broadly defined as any central nervous system disease process that hinders the ability of a child to achieve age-appropriate developmental maturity as expected (Farmer, Donders & Warchausky, 2006; Hagerman, 1999). Such disorders may have a variety of etiological underpinnings, including ones that are primarily genetic or metabolic in their onset. Some examples of neurodevelopmental disorders include the Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs), mucopolysaccharidoses, Fragile X Syndrome, Down Syndrome, neurofibromatosis, velo-cardio-facial syndrome, Turner Syndrome, among others that are less commonly known (Hagerman, 1999; also see Klein-Tasman, Philips & Kelderman, this volume). Behavioral difficulties that can be the target of pharmacological intervention are common in these disorders. In this chapter, concepts relevant to the pharmacological treatment of neurodevelopmental disorders will be explored. The autism spectrum disorders will be used as a model, to look at how decisions are made with regard to pharmacological interventions for children with these disorders.
ASD as a model neurodevelopmental disorder
The Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) are a group of debilitating neurodevelopmental disorders characterized by (1) deficits in socialization; (2) deficits in language and communication; and (3) the presence of restricted, repetitive, and stereotyped patterns of behaviors, interests, and activities (American Psychiatric Association, 2000; see also Wolf, Fein & Akshoomoff, this volume). These disorders are best defined by the social difficulties that present in affected children.