Cognitive and Perceptual Deficits

Also known as: perceptual and cognitive disorder, functional impairments, cognitive and perceptual dysfunction.

What are cognitive and perceptual deficits?

  • Cognition is the mental process that allows us to acquire information and knowledge - it allows a child to understand and act in the world around him/her. It includes: language, memory, attention, judgment, a knowledge base, reasoning, and planning and other important mental abilities.
  • Perceptual deficits are one of the types of learning disorder which may involve: information entering the brain (input), how information is processed and interpreted (integration), how memory is stored and recalled (memory), how information is used (output). It is how a child perceives what they see or hear.

Both may be mild, moderate or severe.

What causes cognitive and perceptual deficits?

Risk factors include those before birth: prenatal (before birth) genetic and chromosomal abnormalities, abnormalities in the way a baby’s organs function (metabolic disorders), brain abnormalities, maternal disease and environmental factors (like toxins etc.).

During labor and after birth (perinatal and postnatal): lack of oxygen to the baby’s brain (hypoxia), infections, birth trauma (difficulty during delivery), seizure disorders, severe social deprivation and other causes.

It may be associated with other common mental and neurodevelopmental abnormalities like Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Syndrome (ADHD) and others.

What are the symptoms of cognitive and perceptual deficits?

Symptoms vary widely and range from mild difficulties in specific parts of functioning to profound intellectual impairments. If you have any anxiety regarding your child’s development and/or daily mental or social functioning (compared to siblings or other children), bring them to the attention of your Pediatrician who will assess your child and refer your child if necessary for appropriate neurodevelopmental testing.

What are the care options? 

While there is no cure for intellectual disabilities, early diagnosis and management by a multidisciplinary group of medical personnel is recommended to enhance all areas of your child’s functioning as needed.


Reviewed by: Jack Wolfsdorf, MD, FAAP

This page was last updated on: September 09, 2020 11:17 AM

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