Every child has behavioral issues from time to time, but a child exhibiting chronic and exaggerated behavioral problems or severe social maladjustment can cause parents and teachers a great deal of distress. While many behavioral outbursts are nothing more than a regular part of the maturing process, others may be routed in more concrete, physiological causes. As part of every well-child visit, we will evaluate children for behavioral issues across the pediatric spectrum. However, it’s important to note that we do not treat anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, or bipolar disease, but we will be able to refer you to a mental health provider to confirm diagnosis and determine what kind of treatment may best benefit your child.
While every child’s personality is unique, there are a number of relatively common issues that may result in behavioral problems:
Children’s Conduct Disorder (Oppositional Defiant Disorder)
Conduct disorder is a serious behavioral and emotional disorder that can occur in children and teens. A child with this disorder may display a pattern of disruptive and violent behavior, have problems following rules, and can become a danger to themselves or others.
Children’s Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a type of mental illness that causes repeated unwanted thoughts. To get rid of the thoughts (obsessions), a person with OCD does the same tasks over and over (compulsions). For example, you may fear that everything you touch has germs on it, so you wash your hands over and over again. Medication and psychotherapy can often help bring these feelings under control.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
This well-known condition makes is extremely difficult for a child to pay attention and focus on a single task for any length of time. People who have ADHD tend to act without thinking, have trouble sitting still, and find it difficult to even complete projects that they enjoy. Without treatment, ADHD may cause problems at home, at school, at work, and with relationships.
Autism and Autism Related Disorders (Asperger’s Syndrome)
Both Asperger’s syndrome and autism belong to the group of disorders called autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), once known as pervasive developmental disorders. They are characterized by a pronounced difficulty communicating with and relating to others. Children with these conditions may have poor social skills, prefer routine, and experience extreme anxiety in the face of changing routines.
Depression is a problem with the brain’s neurochemistry that causes feelings of extreme sadness, loss of interest in things that were once enjoyed, withdrawal from others, and loss of energy and initiative. It’s more than normal sadness, grief, or low energy. Most people get better with medicine, counseling, or a combination of the two.
Social Anxiety Disorder
Social anxiety disorder causes a child to be so fearful about what they will say or do in front of other people that they avoid social settings like work or school completely. It’s more than just being shy or nervous before public speaking, but can eventually develop into a truly debilitating condition. Counseling and certain medications can often help.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Depression is a problem with the brain’s neurochemistry that causes feelings of extreme sadness, loss of interest in things that were once enjoyed, withdrawal from others, and loss of energy and initiative. It’s more than normal sadness, grief, or low energy. Depression in children can be triggered by a medical illness, a stressful situation, or the loss of someone special. Children with behavior problems or anxiety also are more likely to get depressed. Sometimes, it can be hard to identify any triggering event. Children with these symptoms must be reported to a mental health provider for further evaluation and management.
The signs and symptoms of autism vary widely, as do its effects. However, if you notice any of the following developmental delays or behavioral problems in your child, please contact us to obtain appropriate referrals for evaluation:
Little to no eye contact
Repetitive use of language and/or motor mannerisms
Lack of or delay in development of spoken language
Doesn’t smile or display other warm, joyful expressions
Doesn’t know how to connect with others, play, or make friends
Prefers not to be touched, held, or cuddled
Doesn’t respond to his or her name or to the sound of a familiar voice
Persistent fixation on parts of objects
Does not reach out to be picked up
Has trouble understanding or talking about feelings
Doesn’t ask for help or make other basic requests
Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is treatable through medication and psychotherapy. Treatment may take a long time because the child has to learn how to reduce the irrational thoughts and substitute the ritualistic or obsessive behaviors for more progressive behaviors.
Common classroom accommodations which are extremely helpful to children with attention deficits include:
Make sure your child sits near the teacher and away from windows and doors
Untimed testing if needed
Elimination of unnecessary writing
Have your child tape-record verbal assignments
Most importantly, make sure the school’s plan for dealing with your child’s needs really works for your child.