May 28, 2007

Young Child Mental Health - The Importance of Early Treatment

Increasingly psychiatrists and psychologists are finding through research that early childhood risk for many mental health problems like autism and ADHD (as well as more serious mental illness such as schizophrenia) can be identified, treated and even prevented with certain behavioral and psychological treatments at an early age. The Philadelphia Enquirer newspaper has a good story on this progress and the importance of identification of mental health in children. One interesting part of the article was a quote that summarizes the importance of how environment and genes are now known to interact to result in mental illness:

"An Institute of Medicine report in 2000 titled "From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development" helped energize the idea. The report emphasized the plasticity of babies' brains. It also explained how interacting with babies can change their brain wiring.

"We used to say 'nature vs. nurture,' but now people really think it's 'nature through nurture,' " said the University of Chicago's Lawrence Gray. "

We've covered this important topic previously in the article on the biology and psychology of mental illness.

Read the entire article: Looking much earlier for signs of mental ills - More doctors checking babies. Early diagnosis can mean early care.

Related Reading:

There is an excellent web audio presentation on the aforemention report - go to the following link for this audio presentation: Public Briefing. From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development

Prevention of schizophrenia

Early Treatment for Schizophrenia - News

Schizophrenia prevention - News

The Neuropsychology of the Playground (How Parenting Styles Impact Child Brain Development)


So far it looks like the early care will not prevent autism - the child already has it - but the intensive interventions ("nurture") starting at an ever earlier age, are, over many years, having a much better prognosis ie- outcome than not treating earlier.

This is far from "prevention", but it does immensely improve treatment outcome in the case of autism.

I know that years back, my husband and I tried to tell the pediatrician that our newest addition to the family cried too much and slept too little, and was wayyyy too sensitive to sounds but the doctor just didn't not "get" the depth of those words in her case, nor was there anything to be done. I will be very happy when the day comes when all parents can take a baby to the pediatrician and say something like that and the baby and family immediatly be understood and steps can be taken to actually prevent subsequent depression, temperature sensitivities, escalating nightmares, psychosis, etc.

We already have made some advances, like such a child might no longer be put on a stimulant for what looks like ADHD but isn't... but it takes so many years for what is known through research to be incorporated into practice. It never ceases to amaze me that there are still so many mistakes being made with these special needs babies and children - tests not done, appropriate treatment not suggested and wrong treatments prescribed.


Posted by: Naomi at May 29, 2007 07:35 AM

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