Brenda - posted on 11/17/2010 ( 16 moms have responded )
Well I got to thinking about this, and in case someone needs this advice, I'll pass it on. Many of you know, I'm training to be a school counselor (high school or middle school) and my recent studies have been in diagnosis and treatment methods of childhood mental disorders. So I came up with a list of things I would tell any parent who is or might be dealing with this.
1. Our first instinct is to ask our pediatrician about things, and sometimes that's okay, unless you are afraid of a mental disorder of some sort (Asperger's, Autism spectrum, ADHD, learning disorders, anything really). This is really not a good idea because they have a turn on a psych ward during their residency, and it may not have been a children's psych ward even. So who to ask? Seek the help of a licensed counselor, psychologist or a psychiatrist. A counselor is least expensive and can tell you if you have something to worry about. A psycholgist is trained only in mental health and should have a Ph.d. or Psy.d. A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who has been trainined in mental health (and is the only one who can write a prescription).
2. Most the time, it is not recommended to diagnose a child before the age of 6. Some things can be evaluated, but only a few things can be diagnosed before 6 (stuff like Autism and childhood schizophrenia can be diagnosed) but there is a vast amount of 2-3 year olds diagnosed with ADHD when it is recommended to wait until six or older. Children change at fast rates, so it is possible that symptoms will disappear as they mature. Also, personality disorders are not diagnosed before 18-20 years of age.
3. If you are in public school system, (in the US) you have certain rights. You as a parent have the right to request an evaluation of your child for free for special services. I have to explain though, just because a child has a doctor's diagnosis does not mean they automatically get special services. (If a child is ADHD, for example, and it is completely controlled with medication, there is no need for an IEP - Individual Education Plan). And what the schools consider a diagnosis and what doctors consider a diagnosis are based on two seperate criteria. Schools base things on IDEA (Individuals with disabilities Education Act) whle doctors use the DSM IV TR (Diagnositic and Statistical Manual, 4 text revision).
4. Medication can be beneficial, and is sometimes necessary, however it is MORE effective when combined with therapy. ADHD sometimes goes untreated because parents say it "changes" their child. The child is the same, they are only not seeking intense stimulation at such a rapid rate, so they may seem more calm and reserved, but this will allow them to concentrate and focus where before they could not. However, a parent should never go into medication without less than full information on what it does and why they need it. When in doubt, seek a second opinion.
5. And always remember, everyone shows symptoms of many disorders, but it does not mean they have that disorder. You can look down the list of Autism symptoms, and find several you might have, I know I can. It is a combination of multiple symptoms that last a certain amount of time that makes someone (child or adult) be diagnosed with something.
I'm going to give this link, just keep in mind number five, and NEVER self diagnose. Seek a professional if you think sometime may apply to you, but please don't walk in and say I think I have this. Just give your symptoms and let them do the work.