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Get Help for Your Child or Adolescent with Our Mental Health Services in Park Ridge, IL


Children & Adolescents – Family Care Network

Evaluation & Treatment of Children

Children can experience a variety of symptoms and problematic behavior. At times, it is a transitional expression, at others, a more serious and lasting process which can interfere with their lives on a daily basis, making it difficult to function. We provide a full range of assessment and treatment options, based on each particular circumstance.

Examples may include symptoms of anxiety, such as the following:

  • School phobia/avoidance
  • Separation anxiety
  • Panic
  • Excessive worry and fears
  • Obsessive compulsive behaviors
  • Overanxious childhood
  • Social skills

Similarly, children struggling with inattention, distractibility, and acting before thinking may be experiencing signs and symptoms of Attention Deficit, a neuro-biology disorder with many environmental variables, including social, academic, and behavioral.

Children may also experience the following:

  • Learning problems/disabilities
  • Strong-willed behavior
  • Psychosomatic complaints
  • Bed wetting/soiling
  • Sensory integration issues

Adolescents

Teenagers can struggle with a variety of thoughts and feelings, including the following:

  • How they fit in with their peers
  • Academic expectations and performance
  • Peer pressure
  • Identity issues
  • Depression
  • Self-mutilation

Substance abuse and underachieving are usually manifestations of deeper problems.

Families

  • Helping families explore their communication patterns and how they resolve difficulties
  • Determining appropriate expectations
  • Developing effective parenting styles

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Academic Difficulties

Evaluation and treatment for:

  • Learning disabilities
  • Executive function difficulties
  • Giftedness
  • Neuro-developmental difficulties
  • Attention problems

Recommendations include:

  • Educational planning- IEP; 504 Plans, etc.
  • Ongoing collaboration with providers and school teams

 


Children and Adolescents with Medical Conditions

As pediatric health psychologists, we understand medical conditions and the mind-body connection. We can help the individual learn to anticipate feelings in the body and have more direct control over them through several different interventions.

We provide a supportive and therapeutic environment for children/teens with abdominal pain, including IBDs such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s, as well as kids experiencing eosinophilic enteropathy.

We understand the organic and behavioral correlates to encopresis and use several techniques to empower the child, improve self-esteem, and manage behaviors related to the encopresis.

It is only natural that children and teenagers become tired of the prodding and poking from doctors, despite doctors having their patient’s best interest at heart. Similarly, teens often resent the reminders from parents about following their medical regime and may in fact become non-compliant as a way of asserting their independence. Oddly enough, they are only hurting themselves. As health psychologists, we try to empower teenagers to avoid the power struggles and make good decisions for themselves, also helping them understand their developmental process.

In a similar way, we also help chronic pediatric patients in their transitional care as they approach young adulthood.


Treatment Approaches

Our treatment approaches are “tailor-made” for each individual; however, all treatment is evidence-based. We follow the most currently supported research, which includes behavioral interventions for children and parents, school interventions, psycho-social approaches, and biofeedback, depending on each individual situation.

See also the health psychology section by clicking here.


Bullying

Bullying is a national epidemic! Twenty percent of high school students reported being bullied on high school property!

The cost to victims can include emotional, social, academic/occupational, behavioral, and economic difficulties. Sometimes, even one’s life has been at stake.

Bullies too suffer. They often have conduct difficulties and academic difficulties in school. They may experience extreme moods and aggression. Bullies are more likely to experience criminal activities by young adulthood. Other behaviors include anti-social behaviors, substance abuse, gambling/smoking, dropping out of school, abusive relationships, etc.

Bullying can be direct through physical contact, but also indirect through social means such as teasing, taunting, harassing, manipulating relationships, etc. Cyberbullying has added the dimension of bullying via electronic means, such as cell phones, texting, emails, etc.

Psychotherapy can help both the victim and the bully by exploring how they are communicating their feelings. Are they able to be empathic toward others? How do they handle aggression? What about coping skills for anxiety?

Low self-esteem issues are also abound and need to be addressed, as well as coping skills such as problem-solving. The end result is the resilient child who presents with purpose and confidence!

(C) 2011 Michael Athans, Ph.D.

Signs that a Child Is Being Bullied

Look for changes in the child; however, be aware that not all children who are bullied exhibit warning signs. Some signs that may point to a bullying problem are the following:

  • Unexplainable injuries
  • Lost or destroyed clothing, books, electronics, or jewelry
  • Frequent headaches or stomachaches, feeling sick, or faking illness
  • Changes in eating habits, like suddenly skipping meals or binge eating (kids may come home from school hungry because they did not eat lunch)
  • Difficulty sleeping or frequent nightmares
  • Declining grades, loss of interest in schoolwork, or not wanting to go to school
  • Sudden loss of friends or avoidance of social situations
  • Feelings of helplessness or decreased self esteem
  • Self-destructive behaviors such as running away from home, harming themselves, or talking about suicide

Reprinted from The Department of Health and Human Services: www.stopbullying.gov. Please see their website, including educational videos.


Problem Checklist

School Problems

  • Change in academic performance
  • Difficulty completing or doing homework
  • Conflicts with teachers or classmates
  • Refusal/fear of going to school
  • Lack of motivation

Emotional/Behavioral Problems

  • Behavior/Social changes
  • Lack of enthusiasm/motivation/interest
  • Persistent lying or stealing
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal talk or action
  • Excessive fears or worries
  • Frequently acts like a much younger child
  • Ritualistic behavior
  • Easily distracted
  • Often acts before thinking
  • Difficulty sitting still
  • Persistence in an annoying way
  • Tantrums/Testing of limits
  • Physical symptoms
  • Sleeping problems
  • Physical complaints
  • Bowel control problems
  • Excessive nervous habits
  • Withdrawal from family social situations

Did you know?

Anxiety symptoms can start even before kids approach school age. The average age for kids experiencing anxiety is eleven years old.

Children with real medical illnesses often also exhibit symptoms of anxiety, and in fact, school phobia/refusal often follows.

In cases of school refusal, the longer a child is out, the harder it is to return to school, despite their usual average to above average intelligence.

Untreated childhood anxiety can result in other difficulties in life, including depression, substance abuse, and suicide, if left untreated.

Anxiety disorders are treatable! Contact your health care provider to consider treatment options. Most often counseling can help your child with these feelings.

For more information, click here for the journal article, “Anxiety Disorders in Children & Adolescents,” from the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine Vol 164 (No 10) Oct 2010.


What is Autism?

Autism and Asperger’s are often referred to as “Autism Spectrum Disorders” because of the wide range and extent of developmental issues. One in 110 children are diagnosed with autism, and it appears that the numbers continue to increase. The prevalence is much higher for boys. Although the reasons for the increase are not totally understood, part of the reason for the increase may be earlier detection and awareness.

The causes of autism are not known, although it is primarily understood to be a genetic disorder combined with environmental factors which may contribute to the child’s early development. Recent research also points to inflammation in the body’s immune system.

Symptoms are primarily social, making communication and social interaction more difficult. In particular, there is a lack of eye contact. Social interactions appear awkward. Oftentimes, kids will demonstrate repetitive behaviors and exhibit very focused interests. They often miss social cues, with transitions and changes often being difficult, responding better to the structure of routines and timeframes. We can understand how frustrating social interactions can be, also impairing one’s self-esteem. Anger is not an uncommon manifestation. Early diagnosis and treatment are important. Therapy is often intense, addressing social interactions along with behavioral and educational goals. Family intervention can also be beneficial, as many family members do not always understand the difficulties and sometimes believe them to be willful.


Talking with Your Child’s Pediatrician about Behavioral Problems and Medication

As a parent, if your child appears to have a behavioral or mood problem, you may worry about the best way to get help and treatment. It is important to feel comfortable and confident asking questions about your child’s health and expressing concerns you might have about your child’s moods, thinking, or behavior.

Alarmingly, medication is being prescribed at a growing rate to children by pediatricians to treat behavioral or mood problems. Medication for an emotional or behavioral problem can be helpful, but research shows that for children psychological interventions are more successful than medication alone.

While a prescription may be one of the options given to you by your pediatrician, it’s important to consider all options before making a decision. Sometimes medication is necessary—especially if your child has extreme aggressive or even dangerous behavior, or is severely moody. Talk with your pediatrician about getting a good assessment of your child, and ask for a referral to a mental health professional such as a psychologist when these problems are severe.

A few startling numbers about children and medication

  • More than 500,000 children and adolescents in America are on antipsychotic drugs, according to a report (PDF, 183KB) by the Food and Drug Administration.
  • Between 2001 and 2005, research shows that the number of children taking antipsychotic medications rose 73 percent (spending on medications to treat attention deficit disorder alone rose 183 percent).
  • A Columbia University study found, despite increasing rates of antipsychotic use by very young children, provision of formal mental health services remains sparse.
  • Psychological interventions have a low rate of use and that rate is getting lower as more medications are used. Researchers found that less than one-half of antipsychotic-treated young children received a mental health assessment, a psychotherapy visit, or a visit with a psychiatrist during the year of antipsychotic use.

Make sure to remember that with any medication there are risks, such as side effects and adverse reactions, as well as benefits. Children’s brains and bodies are still developing, and the safety of psychotropic medications cannot be inferred from adult data. Research has yet to comprehensively examine the effectiveness and long-term side effects of many of these drugs on children.

The most important thing to do with your pediatrician is to get information and to get your questions answered.

  • Can my child receive a mental health assessment from a psychologist before we proceed?
  • How is the medication going to help my child? Will I see changes in short-term or long-term behavior?
  • What specific changes can I expect to see in my child’s thinking, moods, or behavior as a result of the medication?
  • What side effects might this medication have on my child?
  • What other treatment do you recommend? Is medication really necessary for my child?

If the medication is not working, however, and your child either has side effects or you’re not seeing the expected mood or behavioral change with the medication, it is imperative to get back in touch with your pediatrician and talk with them about other treatment options.

How psychologists can help

Psychologists are trained to help children with behavioral or mood problems. If you need help, consult with a psychologist or other licensed mental health professional. Practicing psychologists use a variety of evidence-based treatments—most commonly psychotherapy—to help people improve their lives. Psychologists, who have doctoral degrees, receive one of the highest levels of education of any health care professional. Use APA’s Psychologist Locator Service to find a psychologist specializing in children in your area.


Sources

Mehta, H. 2009. Drug Use Review. DHHS Public Health Service. FDA Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, (PDF, 183KB).

Michael, K.D., & Crowley, S.L. 2002. “How effective are treatments for child and adolescent depression? A meta-analytic review.” Clinical Psychology Review, 22 (2), 247-269.

Olfson, M., Crystal, S., Huang, C., & Gerhard, T. 2010. “Trends in antipsychotic drug use by very young, privately insured children.” Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 49 (1), 13-23.

Parens, E., & Johnston, J. “Mental health in children and adolescents.” From Birth to Death and Bench to Clinic: The Hastings Center Bioethics Briefing Book for Journalists, Policymakers, and Campaigns, ed. Mary Crowley (Garrison, NY: The Hastings Center, 2008), 101-106.

Credit given to the American Psychological Association. This help center article was adapted from a September 2010 post by Katherine C. Nordal, PhD, on APA’s Your Mind Your Body blog. Thanks also to Ron Palomares, PhD, who assisted with this article. http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/children-medication.aspx

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