The questions below are common inquiries from patients, both parents and clients. If your question isn't answered here, please feel free to contact Child Mental Health Solutions here.
Click on the question below to see the answer.
CAN YOU DESCRIBE WHAT A COMPREHENSIVE APPROACH TO TREATMENT ENTAILS?
A comprehensive approach to treatment involves treating the whole person--mentally, emotionally, even physically--using genetic testing and psychopharmacological interventions when necessary. The comprehensive approach assesses each child’s mental and emotional triggers, including family and school based stressors, as a means to develop a course of treatment for the child, and brings in professionals from other networks and areas of practice as needed to provide the best course of treatment.
This is the basis for holistic treatment which includes healing that addresses the whole person--mind, body and spirit--integrating both conventional and alternative therapies.
WHAT CAUSES CHILD MENTAL HEALTH ILLNESS? AND WHAT DOES IT MEAN WHEN EXPERTS SAY IT IS ENVIRONMENTAL OR ORGANIC?
One of the most difficult aspects of parenting a child struggling with a mental health illness is recognizing that there aren't necessarily straightforward answers or direct causes. Mental health illnesses are complex and, more often than not, caused by a combination of factors that are the result of nature (environment) and nurture (upbringing). A child's surroundings can have an impact, but a child can also have existing genetic conditions that predispose him or her to these mental health illnesses, but even in this case there is a lot that can be done to help children.
WHAT ARE SYMPTOMS THAT MAY INDICATE MY CHILD HAS A PSYCHIATRIC DISORDER?
I always tell parents "you know your child best," and sometimes the most evident indicator of a psychiatric disorder is just noticing when your child isn't acting like themselves for an extended period of time--two weeks or longer. Of course, sometimes it feels difficult to really know our children. They are their own people who grow and go through changes on a daily basis normally. But sometimes your gut feeling, coupled with some or many of the symptoms below, are indicators that something bigger might be going on and you should seek help:
- Angry, irritable or depressed mood
- Erratic behavior
- Loss of energy or self-esteem
- Difficulty eating or sleeping, or changes in any of these habits
- Mood swings or feeling worthless or restless
- Difficulty concentrating, refusing to go to school or spend time with friends
- Thoughts of death or suicide
HOW DO I KNOW IF MY CHILD HAS A LEARNING DISABILITY?
Often children with a learning disability often have average or even above average intelligence, but have trouble expressing or processing their knowledge. The early signs of this are struggles keeping up with their classmates--for example, by first grade most children have mastered reading and writing and can do simple arithmetic--or even frustration with the process of learning while being taught. Your child may be very aware of what he wants to accomplish, but have trouble getting there, and this can sometimes lead to anger, decreased self-esteem and, in some cases, even depression. Oftentimes this manifests itself in children not wanting to go to school or work on homework, and can take some careful observation by a parent or a professional, along with collaboration with teachers and other school specialists, to really get to the root of the problem. The key is patience and understanding for both parent and child, as sometimes accurately diagnosing learning disabilities can be a process.
IS IT ADHD OR IMMATURITY?
Studies have shown that ADHD diagnoses occur much more frequently in children who are young for their class than those who are older. The correlation has people asking the question "is it really ADHD, or is my child just less mature than his classmates?" If your child is diagnosed with ADHD, it's important to think carefully about the factors that were taken into consideration. If it's just that your child lacks the ability to meet performance and other deadlines, try comparing his behavior not just to his classmates, but to other children his age. Remember there can be a gap as large as a year in kids of the same grade. It's also important to remember that regardless of your child's age, he may develop or mature a little more slowly and still not have ADHD. When confirming suspicion of an ADHD diagnosis remember the following:
- Information should be gathered from multiple reliable sources (parents, teachers, other professionals at school)
- Evaluate the child's behavior in more than one setting (i.e. in school, extra-curricular activities, and at home)
- Note how a child does over an extended period of time rather than jumping to conclusions. It could be that the child is going through an adjustment period and the behavior will pass.
This issue of "Tips of the Trade"from The Life Solution Center of Darien provides a good overview of ADHD, and dispels some common myths.
ARE THERE TOOLS TO HELP PARENTS COPE WITH A CHILD WHO HAS BEHAVIORAL PROBLEMS?
Yes. A lot of the work we do with children who struggle with behavioral or emotional problems is actually very much in line with helping the parents. In addition to working with the children, we work directly with parents to help them further understand their child's behavior, gain insight into why their child is behaving that way and, often most importantly for recovery, help them understand different coping strategies and mechanisms to use at home. The reasoning behind this is two-fold: First, it helps continue the therapy done at the office into the fold of the child's home life and, secondly, it can sometimes help alleviate circumstances at home that may be unknowingly contributing to a child's behavioral problems.
MINDFULNESS. WHAT IS IT AND HOW CAN IT HELP MY CHILD?
Mindfulness is our ability to be fully present and aware of where we are and what we are doing in the moment, without becoming distracted or overwhelmed by what has occurred in the past or what might occur in the future. While this has long been an incredible coping mechanism for adults, a lot of recent studies have shown it's effectiveness for children as well. Studies show that mindfulness can help children increase their ability to pay attention, calm themselves when they are upset and make better decisions. In fact, it is an extremely holistic approach that helps with many of the disorders we speak about on this website, often without medication, or with only a very short-term treatment. Often even just the process of building a mindfulness practice can provide kids with a sense of responsibility, which is also a contributing factor in their ability to cope with different symptoms they experience as a result of mental illness or behavioral problems.
WILL MY CHILD NEED MEDICATION FOR THE REST OF HIS LIFE?
Our hope with medication is always that it is only for a specified period of time rather than a permanent fix. This is often the case when diagnoses are made at such a young age, especially in circumstances that are situational. Sometimes medication provides the perfect temporary stabilizer to help a child get through a difficult situation, emotional adjustment, or period of stress. The hope is that medication can provide a period in which the child can engage more or differently with both their parents and other parties helping them, to shed further light on what might be causing or underlying a disorder. As with any patient, the goal is to get the child off medication as quickly as possible, a goal which is greatly facilitated by using a comprehensive approach to treatment with holistic applications of care.
WILL MY CHILD BECOME ADDICTED TO MEDICATION?