What are the Signs of Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder?

There are three types of ADHD, each with different symptoms. The types are referred to as Inattentive, hyperactive, and combined attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.

Children with inattentive type:
Have short attention spans Are easily distracted Do not pay attention to details
Make many mistakes
Fail to finish things
Are forgetful
Don’t seem to listen
Cannot stay organized

Children with the hyperactive-impulsive type:
Fidget and squirm
Are unable to stay seated or play quietly
Run or climb too much or when they should not
Talk to much or when they should not
Blurt out answers before questions are completed
Have trouble taking turns Interrupt others

Combined attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, the most common type, is a combination of inattentive and the hyperactive-impulsive types.

What Can Parents Do?

You should be careful not to jump to conclusions. A high energy alone does not mean that he or she has this disorder. A diagnosis depends on whether he or she can focus well enough to complete tasks that suit his or her age and intelligence. This ability is most likely to be noticed by a teacher. Therefore, input from your child’s teacher should be taken seriously.

If you suspect a problem with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder:
Make an appointment with a psychiatrist, psychologist, child neurologist, or behavioral pediatrician for an evaluation.
If your child is diagnosed with ADHD, be patient. The disorder may take a long time to improve.
Instill a sense of competence in your child or adolescent. Promote his or her strengths, talents, and feelings of self-worth Remember that failure, frustration, discouragement, low self-esteem, and depression, in many cases, cause more problems then the disorder itself
Get accurate information from libraries, hotlines, or other sources Ask questions about treatments and services
Talk with other families in the community
Find family network organizations

If you are not satisfied with the mental health care your family is receiving, you should discuss your concerns with the provider. Ask for more information and/or seek help from other sources

What Help is Available for Families?

The best-proven treatments for ADHD are medication and behavior treatment.

Medication- the most widely used drugs for treating ADHD in children and adolescents are stimulants. Stimulants increase the activity in parts of the brain that are under-active in the children and adolescents with ADHD.

Behavior Treatment includes:
Teaching parents and teachers how to manage and modify the child’s or adolescent’s behavior, such as rewarding good behavior
A daily report card to link the home and school efforts
Summer and weekend programs
Special classrooms that use intensive behavior modification
Specially trained classroom aids

A child or adolescent in need of treatment or services may need a plan of care based on the severity and duration of symptoms.

What is Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder?

Youngsters with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder are typically overactive, unable to pay attention, and impulsive. They also tend to be accident-prone. Children or adolescents with this disorder may not do well in school or even fail, despite normal or above-normal intelligence. Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder is sometimes referred to as ADHD.

How do I Recognize Suicidal Feelings?

Many of the symptoms of suicidal feelings are similar to those of depression. You should be aware of the following signs. If one or more of these signs occur, you should talk to an adult you trust about your feelings and seek help from a mental health professional.

Pay attention if you (or your friends):

1.  Have changed your eating habits dramatically
2.  Have withdrawn from friends, family, and regular activities
3.  Feel angry most of the time, cry a lot more then usual, or overreact to things
4.  Have committed violence, are acting unusually rebellious, or have run away
5.  Are using drugs or alcohol
6.  Don’t care about your personal appearance
7.  Are always bored, have difficulty concentrating, or have a marked decline in the quality of your school work.
8.  Feel physically sick a lot, with things related to your feelings, such as stomachaches, headaches, fatigue, etc.
9.  Have lost interest in things you usually enjoy
10. Can’t tolerate praise or rewards
11. Think that killing yourself is the only way to make the bad feeling stop

A person who is planning to commit suicide may also:
1.  Complain of being “rotten inside”
2.  Give verbal hints with statements such as “I won’t be a problem for you much longer,” “nothing matters,” “it’s no use,” “I won’t see you again”
3.  Put his or her affairs in order (for example, give away favorite possessions, clean his or her room, throw away important belonging, etc.)
4.  Become suddenly cheerful after a period of depression (when the decision to commit suicide is made, sometimes people will feel relieved, and actually appear cheerful)

What are the Signs of Adolescent Suicide?

Suicides among young people in the US have increased dramatically in the recent years. Each year, thousands of teenagers commit suicide. Suicide is the third leading cause of death for 15-24 year olds.

Adolescents experience strong feelings of stress, confusion, self-doubt, pressure to succeed, financial uncertainty, and other fears while growing up. Most of these stresses are unavoidable and worrying about them is normal.

But pay attention if you’re feeling extremely sad, hopeless, or worthless. These are warning signs that something could be wrong.
If you are thinking that suicide might be a solution, you need to get help right away. If you are not feeling this way, but have a friend who is, you need to help him or her get help. Suicidal feelings are treatable by a mental health professional.

What should I do about someone with suicidal thoughts?

Suicidal thoughts and feelings are something to be taken very seriously. Your life (or your friend’s life) depends on it. Depression and suicidal feelings are very painful. They can hurt as much or more than physical injury. But, these feelings are treatable by a mental health professional. With help, they will get better. And, the sooner you get help, the sooner you will get better.

The first thing to do is to find an adult that you trust to talk to. There are many people out there that can help. Local hotlines are available to handle a crisis situation. If you are thinking of killing yourself and don’t know who to talk to, call a crisis hotline right away.

If you have a friend who is showing some warning signs listed above, you should take your concerns very seriously.

What are anxiety disorders?

Young people with anxiety disorders are typically so afraid, worried, or uneasy that they cannot function normally. Anxiety disorders can be long lasting and interfere greatly with a child’s life.

If not treated early they can lead to:
Missed school days or an inability to finish school
Impaired relations with peers
Low self-esteem
Alcohol or other drug use
Problems adjusting to work situations
Anxiety disorder in adulthood

What are the signs of an anxiety disorder?

There are a number of different anxiety disorders that affect children and adolescents: Generalized anxiety disorder, phobias, panic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, etc.

Generalized anxiety disorder- Youngsters with this disorder experience extreme, unrealistic worry that does not seem to be related to any recent event. Typically, these young people are very self-conscious, feel tense, have strong need for reassurance, and complain about stomachaches or other discomforts that don’t appear to have any physical basis.

Phobias- a phobia is an unrealistic and excessive fear of some situation or object. Some phobias, called specific phobias, center on animals, storms, water, heights, or situations, such as being in an enclosed space. Children and adolescents with social phobias are terrified of being criticized by others or judged harshly by others. Because young people with phobias will try to avoid the objects and situations they fear, the disorder can greatly restrict their lives.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder- A child with obsessive-compulsive disorder becomes trapped in a pattern of repetitive thoughts and behaviors. Even thought the child may agree that the thoughts or behaviors appear senseless and distressing, the repetitions are very hard to stop. The compulsive behaviors may include repeated hand washing, counting, or arranging and rearranging objects.

Post-traumatic stress disorder- Post-traumatic stress disorder can develop in children or adolescents after they experience a very stressful event. Such events may include physical or sexual abuse, being a victim of or witnessing violence; or being caught in a disaster, such as a bombing or hurricane. Young people with post-traumatic stress disorder experience the vent again and again in strong memories, flashbacks, or troublesome thoughts. As a result, the young person may try to avoid anything associated with the trauma. They also overreact when startled or having difficulty sleeping.

What help is available for anxiety disorders?

Once an accurate diagnosis is made, one or more of the following treatments or services can be recommended:

Cognitive-behavioral therapy
Other types of individual therapy
Family therapy
Parent training Medication

How do you diagnose autism?

There are no medical tests for diagnosing autism. An accurate diagnosis must be based on observation of the individual’s communication, behavior, and developmental levels. However, because many of the behaviors associated with autism are shared by other disorders, various medical tests may be ordered to rule out or identify other possible causes of the symptoms being exhibited.

A brief observation in a single setting cannot present a true picture of an individual’s abilities and behaviors. Parental (and other caregivers’) input and developmental history are very important components of making an accurate diagnosis. At first glance, some persons with autism may appear to have mental retardation, a behavior disorder, problems with hearing, or even odd and eccentric behavior. To complicate matters further, these conditions can co-occur with autism. However, it is important to distinguish autism from other conditions, since an accurate diagnosis and early identification can provide the basis for building an appropriate and effective educational and treatment program.

Whether you or your child’s pediatrician is the first to suspect autism, your child will need to be referred to someone who specializes in diagnosing autism spectrum disorders. This may be a developmental pediatrician, a psychiatrist or psychologist. Other professionals may be included who are better able to observe and test your child in specific areas.

What can parents of an autistic child do?

If you suspect that your child may be showing signs of autism, you should:

Talk with your pediatrician or family doctor about your concerns. He or she can help determine whether the symptoms are due to autism, a related disorder, or some other condition.
If necessary the doctor can refer your family to a specialist who treats autism in your people.
Get accurate information from libraries, hotlines, or other sources.
Ask questions about treatment and services.
Talk to other families in your community.
Find family network organizations.

If you are not satisfied with the mental health services your family is receiving, you should discuss your concerns with the provider, ask for information, and, if necessary, seek help from another provider.

What are the signs of Bipolar Disorder?

  • Inflated self-esteem or grandiosity
  • Decreased need for sleep
  • More talkative than usual or a need to keep talking
  • Flight of ideas or racing thoughts
  • Distractability and inability to focus
  • Increased activity or agitation
  • Excessive involvement in pleasurable activities that have a high potential for painful consequences
  • Sadness that wont go away
  • Hopelessness
  • Loss of interest in usual activities
  • Changes in eating or sleeping habits
  • Missed school or poor school performance
  • Aches and pains that don’t get better with treatment
  • Thoughts about death and suicide

What can Parents Do?

If you suspect a problem with Bipolar Disorder:
Make careful notes about the behaviors that concern you.
Note how long the behaviors have been going on, how often they occur, and how severe they seem.
Get an appointment with a mental health professional or with your child’s doctor for evaluation and diagnosis
Get accurate information from libraries, hotlines, or other sources
Ask questions about treatment and services
Talk to other families in your community
Find family network organizationsIf you are not satisfied with the mental health services your family is receiving you should discuss your concerns with the provider, ask for information, and if necessary, seek help from another provider.

What Help is Available?

It is extremely important to get an accurate diagnosis, and therefore, family history, medical history and social history are necessary to rule out other disorders or problems. Bipolar disorder is usually treated with medications and with supportive therapy. Medications are used to moderate mood swings, to lessen anxiety, to reduce hallucinations and to help with sleep. Supportive therapy is extremely important in helping the child and his or her family recognize and control the symptoms of manic and depressive episodes. A child or adolescent in need of treatment or services may need a plan of care based on the severity and duration of symptoms.

What is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder, also know as manic-depression, is a well-known mood, or affective, disorder in adults, but only in recent years has it been recognized in children and adolescents. It is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain.

Most mental health professionals are not prepared to recognize this disorder in children and adolescents. As a result many children and adolescents with this disorder are misdiagnosed. The most common misdiagnosis is attention deficit disorder and conduct disorder.

How do I deal with stigma?

Unfortunately, there is still a stigma attached to the idea of mental illness and serious emotional disorders. This may cause feelings of shame for you or your child. You may not want to let people know about the situation. It is imperative, however, that you talk to professionals in the mental health community and in the other systems your child is involved with so that you can obtain the services you need for help with your child’s and family’s problems.

Mental health problems affect more then 48 million Americans in the course of one year. With the proper care and treatment, people can learn to cope and can go onto lead normal, productive lives. Many people recover completely.

How does finding out about your child’s diagnosis affect you?

Parents and other family members react to a child’s diagnosis many different ways. A diagnosis of mental illness or serious emotional disturbance is something that will affect your child and family for a long time, if not for the rest of your child’s life. Your family is beginning a long and perilous journey. You may be experiencing feelings of grief and loss. All the feelings you are experiencing are normal and are experienced by many parents in your situation.

Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross studied grief a number of years ago and discovered that there are five specific types of feelings that people experience in this process:


It is also normal to experience feelings of loss and to feel overwhelmed by the burden of care for your child.

What are serious emotional disorders in children and adolescents?

Serious emotional disorders are mental health problems that severely disrupt a child’s or adolescent’s daily life and functioning at home, at school, or in the community. Serious emotional disorders affect one in twenty young people at any given time. Without help, these problems can lead to school failure, alcohol and other drug abuse, family discord, violence, or even suicide.

What is the cause of serious emotional disorders?

It is not known what causes serious emotional disorders. It is known that both biology and the environment are involved. Examples of biological causes are genetics, chemical imbalances, and damage to the central nervous system. Emotional disorders that are caused by biology are referred to as neurological brain disorders.

Many environmental factors put children and adolescents at risk for developing emotional disorders. Children who are exposed to violence, abuse, neglect, lead poisoning, or the loss of loved ones through death, divorce, or broken relationships are more at risk of developing mental health problems. Other risk factors include rejection because of religion, sexual orientation, race, or poverty.

What are the Signs of Depression?

Feel really sad and hopeless without good reason and the feelings won’t go away
Feel very angry most of the time, cry a lot, or overreact to things
Feel worthless or guilty a lot
Are unable to get over a loss or death of someone important
Can’t function in school
Have unexplained changes in sleeping or eating
Lose interest in things you usually enjoy
Want to be alone all the time
Can’t concentrate or focus on things
Feel like you need alcohol or other drugs to stop the bad feelings
Don’t care about your appearance

What Help is Available for Depression?

Counseling Family therapy Group therapy Crisis care Medications

What is Depression?

Depression is one of the mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders that can appear during childhood and adolescence. It affects approximately one in eight young people. This type of depression affects a young person’s thoughts, feelings, behavior, and body.

What should I do if a friend needs help?

Encourage your friend to talk to a trusted adult.
If he or she won’t do this, you should talk to an adult you trust .
If your friend talks about suicide, talk to an adult immediately.
Don’t go it alone.
Continue to be a friend.
Be understanding.
Listen your friend and be open to his or her feelings.
Do not blame your friend. This is an illness Hang in there. Your friend needs your friendship.


PANDAS or (Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections) is when strep triggers a misdirected immune response results in inflammation on a child’s brain. In turn, the child quickly begins to exhibit life changing symptoms such as OCD, anxiety, tics, personality changes, decline in math and handwriting abilities, sensory sensitivities, restrictive eating, and more.

For more information please see pandasnetwork.org

Tips for working with your child’s team more effectively

You have a right to be treated with respect, just as professionals.

You and the professional are partners in working out your child’s problems.

You know your child better then anyone else. Don’t be intimidated by professionals. Be as clear as possible.

Ask the professional to explain things to your in plain English if you don’t understand the terms being used. If you don’t understand how the professional came to a conclusion, ask for a specific reason behind it.

You many disagree with professionals about their recommendations for your child.

Don’t be afraid to say so. Explain your point of view in a calm, courteous way.

Parents and professionals should respect each others time.

If you need more time with the professional, say so.

Keep in regular contact with any professional involved with your child.

Find a safe place to keep all your child’s important records.

Encourage members of your child’s professional team to talk with one another.

If you are pleased with a professional, say so.

If you can’t work things out with a processional directly, you may need to discuss your problems with a supervisor.

If you have tried all of the above and still cannot get along with the professional, think about changing to a different person.

How can I obtain services from a school?

As a parent, you have first hand, expert knowledge of your child. You know when your child’s behavior indicates that something is wrong. They may not be doing well in school. Many children with emotional or mental health challenges have difficulties at school. Since this is where you child spends a great deal of time, this is one of the most important areas to be addressed.

The first step is to request and obtain a full evaluation for your child. The purpose of this evaluation is to determine whether your child has a disability, and the nature and extent of any special education and related services that may be necessary. The schools are required to provide this evaluation at your request and at no cost to you. The evaluation process should look at the whole child and include information about your child’s total environment. It is very important that you participate in this evaluation because you know your child best. The evaluation will probably include some academic and psychological tests; observations by professionals who have worked with your child, your child’s medical history as it relates to school performance; information from he family about your child’s school experiences, abilities, needs, and behavior outside of school; and his or her feelings abut school. There should be many people involved in the evaluation, such as teachers, school psychologists, school social workers, other professionals, and family. You should be aware that all tests must be administered in your child’s primary language and must also be given in a way that does not discriminate on the basis of disability, race, or cultural background. The result of the evaluation will determine whether your child is eligible for special education and related services. A serious emotional challenge is a disability under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) which guarantees that all children receive appropriate public education regardless of their disability. If your child is eligible, the results of the evaluation will be used to develop your child’s Individual Education Plan (IEP).

How can parents help?
Let teachers know you are interested in playing an active part in your child’s educational program.
Visit the classroom. Set up times to meet with the teachers.
Explain any special medication or medical needs your child has.
Inform teachers of any activities or significant events that may influence your child’s school performance.
Request that samples of your child’s work be sent home.
If you have questions, make an appointment with the teachers to discuss the issues, and perhaps to set new strategies for meeting your child’s goals.

How can parents help?

  • Let teachers know you are interested in playing an active part in your child’s educational program.
  • Visit the classroom. Set up times to meet with the teachers.
  • Explain any special medication or medical needs your child has.
  • Inform teachers of any activities or significant events that may influence your child’s school performance.
  • Request that samples of your child’s work be sent home. If you have questions, make an appointment with the teachers to discuss the issues, and perhaps to set new strategies for meeting your child’s goals.
  • Ask for suggestions from the teachers and other professional son how you can continue, expand, and reinforce your child’s school activities at home.
  • Volunteer to help in the classroom or at school. This will allow you to get to know the teacher and other school professionals better. It will also allow you to see how your child interacts with others in school.
  • Work together with the teachers and any therapists or counselors that your family is seeing. Helping your child is a team effort

What are some special educational services provided for children with serious emotional challenges?

There is a wide range of education services that could be suggested for a child with serious emotional challenges. Educational programs need to address issues related to mastering academic subjects, developing social skills, increasing self-awareness, self control, and self-esteem.

Behavior modification is a widely used approach for helping children and adolescents with serious emotional challenges. Depending upon what types of disturbance the child has, other approaches, such as cognitive behavioral approaches and conflict resolution, is used.

Children and adolescents with serious emotional challenges may have IEP’s that include psychological or counseling services. A qualified social worker, psychologist, guidance counselor, or other mental health professionals must provide these related services. In extreme cases, a specialized placement may be necessary for the child. This is only done after other less restrictive options are tried.

What is an IEP meeting?

An IEP meeting is held to discuss and agree on the IEP. You should attend, if at all possible. You also have the right to bring someone with you to the meeting. It is the school’s responsibility to set the date and time for the meeting. If you cannot attend at the time that is set, you may request an alternative time. If no time can be agreed upon, the school may hold the meeting without you, but must keep you informed by phone or mail.

During the meeting, the results of the tests and observations will be discussed. The specialist who tested your child should explain what the tests were for, why they used them and explain what the results mean. You will be asked to explain how your child behaves at home, how he or she gets along with others, and his or her experiences in school and personal life.

Before you sign the IEP, ask any questions you have, so you are sure you understand and agree on what is being said. The IEP should be reviewed every year, with a full re-evaluation every three years. It is important to know that before the school system can place your child in a special education program for the first time, you must give your written consent. They can only override your lack of consent through procedures specified by law. If you do no agree with the IEP you should not sign it. If you cannot agree, you have the right to appeal the decision. This can mean bringing in a third party to mediate or it may mean requesting a due process hearing.

What is an Individual Education Plan (IEP)?

An IEP is a written statement of the educational program designed to meet a child’s special needs. It should include statements of the strengths and weaknesses of the child and should describe the educational program designed specifically for the child.

Its purpose is
1) to establish the learning goals for your child
2) to state the services that the school district will provide for your child

As a parent, you are entitled to be included in the development of the IEP and to receive a copy of it upon request. According to the IDEA, and IEP must include the following information