Tag Archives: Parents

How to Handle a Mental Health Crisis

When Should I Go to the ER with My Child?

When confronted with a child’s mental health crisis, some parents may feel the best thing to do is to take their child to the ER.  What they don’t know is that the ER is not always the best answer.  For one thing, there is only one psychiatric ER in Hennepin County for children (Fairview Riverside), and even if you take your child there, you may wait over 8 hours and your child still may not be admitted at the end of that wait.  If you don’t know what to do, call Child Crisis at 612-348-2233 (www.childcrisisresponsemn.org).  They can help guide you.  If you know your child is emotionally unstable, but can be safe while you wait for responders, Child Crisis can beImage a good first step.

 

Am I working with a licensed Mental Health Professional (MHP)?

It’s a simple enough question, but there are many types of therapists and counselors out there, so it’s a good idea to check the credentials of the therapist who is working with your child or family.  Here is a list of most credentials that are used in Minnesota:

  • LMFT – Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
  • LICSW – Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker
  • LPCC – Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor
  • LP – Licensed Psychologist
  • MD – Psychiatrist

Don’t be afraid to ask.  It’s your right, and in your child’s best interest.

When “Best Practices” Aren’t Good Enough

Recently, my son’s special education teacher assured me that she employs researched “best practices” for his social skills class as well as his transition planning.  When I began to question how effective each of these elements actually are, she reiterated the phrase “best practices,” to shut me down.

What I wanted to say was this: How are these classes and plans actually helping him move forward in gaining the skills he needs to navigate his adult life successfully? How much research actually backs up these “best practices?”  The answer is “Not much.”  

In fact, the ways we are preparing students who have IEPs and/or mental health issues for life as an adult are falling short.  The IES recently conducted a study (not available today because of the government shutdown) that suggests that little is known about the effectiveness of various transition and life skills programs.  As Disability Scoop put it, 

Overall, however, the researchers indicated that a lack of meaningful studies meant they could not make broad assessments about what types of programs are best equipped to help students with disabilities make successful transitions to work, independent living or further training or education after high school.

We know that people with mental health issues and disabilities are less likely to succeed than their peers in post-secondary education and employment environments, so whatever we’re doing right now isn’t working.  So, please, don’t tell me it’s “Best Practices.”  Maybe call it “Best Guess Practices.”  And maybe, just maybe, professionals could be more open to new ideas and the suggestions of parents about better ways to prepare our kids for the world.

Image

 

Normal or Not Normal? Part 3

When should parents of young children seek help?

Red FlagsImage

Early identification of mental health problems in young children is extremely challenging.  There are many resources to help parents learn “red flags” for autism, but other forms of mental disorders are even less clear cut.  Sometimes a parent’s gut instinct is the most powerful “red flag” of all.

When my son with ASD was young, he would throw violent tantrums if his schedule was different, if I took a different route home from his preschool, if he was in too noisy a place, or even if the phone rang or someone flushed the toilet with the lid down.  He would throw the phone across the room, hit his sister or me, and once knocked down rows of boxes in a shoe store.

Given that this happened on a regular basis, I found it really insufferable when other people would say to me, “Oh, every child throws tantrums.” I had an older child and, yes, she had had her moments, but there was absolutely no comparison between the two.

I knew that I was not doing anything to drive the tantrums, like giving in, hitting my child or losing my temper.  Despite my exhaustion and embarrassment, it was EXTREMELY important that I kept my calm.  Otherwise, I just made things worse.  I also used a non-threatening way of restraining him with my arms and legs, so that he was safe and did not hurt himself or others.

If you have provided the right environment and know that your child is getting food, sleep, love, attention, physical activity, and appropriate play experiences, but he or she is still unhappy, disconnected from caregivers, aggressive and/or self-destructive, then you should ask for help.

Talking to Medical Professionals: Describing Behaviors

If you really feel that something is “not right” with your child, please don’t hesitate to talk to your child’s pediatrician or, in Hennepin County, call Help Me Grow at 612-348-TOTS (8687).

When talking to medical professionals, though, it’s best to be as precise as possible.  You could keep a Multiple_Behavior_Chart for one week to show the doctor how often child throws tantrums or hurts himself.  If your infant or toddler cries a lot, time how long the crying lasts.  If you report to the doctor that your one-year-old cries every night for 4 hours, that would have more impact than saying, “My kid is driving me crazy with all his crying.”

NORMAL FOR TODDLERS

NOT NORMAL FOR TODDLERS

Occasional tantrums – Daily tantrums that can last several hours;
– Violent or self-destructive behavior, such as head banging;
– Aggressive behavior toward others
Meeting developmental milestones at slightly different rates – Delays of at least 6 months in walking, talking or social behavior;
– Dramatic loss of skills (speaking, etc.) after a period of  normal development
Meltdowns when tired or hungry – Inability to be soothed or comforted;
– Overreacts to minor changes in routine, noise, light, etc.;

Summer Can Be Fun

We all struggle with finding ways to get our kids outside and moving in the summer.  When kids have mental health issues or disabilities, it’s even harder to find fun activities for them that match their interests.  I’ve gathered a list of some different kinds of activities in and around Hennepin County and also places you can contact to get even more information.

Three Rivers Parks District – Lots of different types of activities for families, from fishing and farming events to day camps for kids.  Please contact 763.559.9000 if you have any questions about special needs accommodations.

Get Out, Get Active!  Hennepin County and area cities have teamed up to offer a great brochure  with listings of fun activities and recreation resources as well as a participation card, that gives you a chance to win a free pass to Three Rivers Parks District (a $150 value).  The contest starts now, so check it out!

Hoofbeats and Heartbeats (763-441-2274) is an equestrian learning center dedicated to providing therapeutic riding and teaching proper horse care and management to individuals with emotional and physical disabilities, elderly and youth. Located in Otsego, MN

Mall of America – Nickelodeon Universe Parents of Kids with Special Needs children can stop by customer service within Nickelodeon Universe for your Park Handbook. A Manager will sign off on rides appropriate for your child and an adult can ride all the rides free of charge with the special kid as a chaperon. The book will also enable up to four people in the party to enter the rides from the exit so there is little to no wait time.

Pump It Up – Sensory Play Night – Come play on the giant, soft, fun-filled interactive inflatables 2nd Monday of each month from 6:00 to 7:30.  During this evening event the area is reserved exclusively for special needs children and their families.

Sensory Friendly Films at AMC Theaters For families affected by autism and other disabilities, these are special opportunities to enjoy their favorite films in a safe and accepting environment. The movie auditoriums will have their lights brought up and the sound turned down, families will be able to bring in their own gluten-free, casein-free snacks, and no previews or advertisements will be shown before the movie.

More Resources and Ideas:

Reach for Resources (952-988-4177) provides therapeutic recreational services to Brooklyn Park, Brooklyn Center, Maple Grove, Golden Valley, Plymouth, St. Louis Park, Hopkins, Minnetonka, Chaska and Chanhassen.

  • YMCAs – summer and after school camps, lots of other activities
  • YWCAs – summer and after school camps, lots of other activities

City Parks and Recreation Departments – Classes, camps, sports,

On the Problem of Avoiding

ostrich-head-in-sand1

When it comes to mental health issues, lots of people avoid them.  Teachers and school staff don’t want to bring up touchy subjects with parents, so they speak in vague, indirect terms, rather than confront the issue more head on.  Instead of saying, “Allison seems sad,” and stopping there, teachers should keep going. They may need to add, “The fact that Allison cries every day, does not seem to have any friends, and falls asleep in class regularly really concerns me.”  From there, a teacher might need to advance to: “You might want to have your child get an evaluation,” or “Your child may benefit from seeing a therapist or counselor.”  If possible, a teacher could offer a list of therapists or low cost clinics that a parent could call.

Of course, this type of honesty has to be offered in a framework of caring and concern.  Even if the topic is introduced thoughtfully and gently, teachers still may experience major blowback from parents.  After all, navigating a child’s mental health issues is a very emotional experience and carries with it an implicit set of blame for the parents. No parents want to hear that their own kid has a problem.  But they need to.

If teachers don’t say anything or coaches or pastors or principals, then parents can continue to tell themselves that their child’s behavior is somehow normal. Avoidance can last for years, often until a devastating crisis occurs.  Here’s a new approach: let’s focus on avoiding crises instead.

Link

Are Psychotropic Meds Overprescribed for Teens?

Are Psychotropic Meds Overprescribed for Teens?Dr. Carrot

Parents who need to resort to prescription medication for the treatment of their child’s mental illness sometimes question their decision. This recent study by the National Institute of Mental Health should help them feel a bit better about their choices.  It concludes that psychotropic medications are not being oversubscribed for teenagers, as some media stories had reported.

The three groups most likely to be prescribed these medications were teens with ADHD, eating disorders or anxiety disorders. The report also suggested that youth being treated by a mental health professional were more likely to receive appropriate care than those being treated within general medicine or other facilities.