Last year at my son’s high school graduation, I was overcome by a flood of emotion. Not surprising you might say; all moms get choked up when they see their young adult in cap and gown, on the verge of an important life transition. I started thinking back to when Justin was just a preschooler, and then something caught my eye.
A handful of students were sitting closer to the stage, supervised by teachers. While I didn’t know them by name, I knew them. These were some of the students in the special education classroom that I had just visited a few weeks prior, the classroom where Justin’s younger sister, Carrie, would soon be enrolled..
As Justin was starting preschool 14 years ago, Carrie was diagnosed with severe autism. Her preschool years were filled with numerous therapies and interventions all aimed at helping her to be more able. During those early years, I sought out moms whose kids were a bit older, figuring they’d be a few steps ahead of us in navigating this new world of special needs. Read full post »
April 16, 2014 | Mental Health, ResearchComments Off on Study: Combining psych meds can cause more side effects in kids
Parents can be understandably nervous when learning the potential side effects of a medication prescribed to their child, but those risks are often outweighed by the medication’s perceived benefit. Researchers at Seattle Children’s Hospital are studying psychiatric medications to make sure the medicines they prescribe do less harm than good.
Robert Hilt, MD, is a child psychiatrist at Seattle Children’s Hospital who has successfully treated many children with psychiatric medications. Hilt began his medical career as a pediatrician and was initially reluctant towards prescribing psychiatric medications until he observed children benefiting from their use. His concern about the frequency of side effects from such treatments inspired him to lead a new study to measure the frequency and severity of side effects in children and adolescents taking psychiatric medicines.
“Typically, data reported by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on medication side effects is based on six to eight week studies using a single drug for a single problem,” Hilt said. “But kids often have multiple conditions and may use several medications for years. We wanted to know how many of those kids were having side effects.”
More medications can mean more side effects
Parents across the country, whose children were prescribed psychiatric medications, completed an online survey for Hilt’s study reporting potential drug effects including increased appetite, sedation, insomnia, stomachache or headache. Most participants – 84 percent – reported their children had some side effects. The number of effects, and overall severity of them, increased with the number of psychiatric medications the children were taking. Read full post »
It is fascinating to watch an infant, who cannot yet talk or walk, play games on a tablet computer. But many parents wonder, should children so young be playing with these devices? Despite previous recommendations that children under age 2 should not use any media, a Seattle Children’s Research Institute expert now says children may benefit from playing with age-appropriate apps for 30 to 60 minutes each day.
In 2011, Dimitri Christakis, MD, MPH, was part of a panel of experts who supported a statement by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) discouraging the use of media by children under 2 years old. But in a new opinion essay, Christakis says that statement should be updated to address new technologies – specifically, the iPad and other tablet computers.
“The AAP statement was in press before iPads existed,” Christakis says. “It treats all screens the same, but there are a lot of theoretical reasons to believe tablet computers are quite different and prior research on traditional media doesn’t apply.”
While he still believes young children should not watch television, Christakis says tablets may be harmless, or even beneficial to infants. Given most parents are ignoring the AAP’s recommendation and 90 percent of children under age 2 watch video screens regularly, Christakis says tablets with interactive apps could be a better alternative. Read full post »
As a child, Christina Hughes had trouble paying attention in school. She was criticized for her outbursts in the classroom and constantly forgot her homework. Doctors diagnosed her with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), but her symptoms were never relieved by therapy. Her academics and social life suffered.
“It was always hard for me to make friends, and the ones I did make weren’t the best influence,” Hughes says.
Thirty years later, Hughes is raising two sons with similar behavioral challenges. Justin, 9, is especially impulsive and emotional. Two years ago, he had a fit and began punching himself in the face. He has been bullied and suspended from school for fighting.
Depression occurs in up to 14 percent of kids ages 13 to 17 and can lead to risky sexual behaviors, substance abuse or even suicide. Unfortunately, few teens utilize mental health services that can help manage depression symptoms. But a study by Seattle Children’s Research Institute suggests parents play a strong role in helping teens receive mental health care.
To find out why some depressed adolescents get help from mental health services and others do not, Seattle Children’s researchers studied 113 teens who screened positive for depression within non-profit health system Group Health. Despite the fact that all of the patients had insurance and access to mental health care, just 52 percent used mental health services. Read full post »
AJ Hwangbo was a happy-go-lucky 6-year-old without a worry in the world until mid-November when he developed a life-threatening heart condition. While specialists at Seattle Children’s Hospital helped AJ heal physically, the young boy struggled to bounce back emotionally. But, AJ’s joyful spirit returned after hospital staff arranged for him to meet his hero – local artist Macklemore.
“The luckiest or unluckiest boy”
Before he became ill, AJ’s mom Yoo-Lee Yea said he was an especially social first-grader and a frequent jokester. But on the morning of Nov. 12 he was quieter than usual. Later that day AJ threw up at school and by the evening he had a high fever. AJ’s primary care doctor said he likely had a virus and should feel better in a few days. Read full post »
October 9, 2013 | Mental HealthComments Off on Addressing ADHD Improves Academic and Social Success
At every moment of every day, the human brain processes a constant, and natural, barrage of stimuli. At multiple levels, including below consciousness, our brains constantly filter through these competing stimuli to prioritize those that help us respond, begin a task, take steps toward a larger goal and behave in socially appropriate ways.
For people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), something is amiss in the brain pathways that filter through these competing impulses. Those affected with this neurological condition have difficulty sorting out relevant stimuli from non-relevant stimuli, and may respond impulsively or not respond when a quick response is required. In the classroom, children with ADHD have difficulty focusing on school or homework, sustaining their attention for things they are not interested in, and some (especially younger children) have difficulty sitting still.
Between 9 percent and 11 percent of school-aged children (4 to 17 years of age) in the U.S. have been diagnosed with ADHD – about 13 percent of boys and 5.5 percent of girls.
Though people with ADHD can be very successful in life, without proper diagnosis and treatment, this condition can have serious consequences, like:
August 27, 2013 | Mental Health, ResearchComments Off on Researchers pinpoint decision-making parts of brain that can affect addiction, ADHD
When “Glee” star Cory Monteith died last month from an overdose of heroin and alcohol, his fans were baffled. Monteith, 31, seemed to have everything—a great job, fame and a loving girlfriend and co-star. He had just completed a stint in rehab in April, too. But the pull of addiction is strong and even the smartest people don’t make the best decisions when faced with temptation.
The team’s findings have implications for addiction, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder. Perhaps one day, with the help of medications targeting this part of the brain, addicts like Monteith can better control their urges and avoid tragic endings.
When a child is sick, needs a vaccination or gets bumped or bruised, most parents don’t hesitate to make a trip to the doctor’s office. But what happens when a child’s feeling blue, overly anxious or struggling to focus in school? This month, in recognition of Mental Health Awareness Month, doctors offer tips for parents to keep kids mentally and emotionally well, and explain what to do when there’s a problem.
Seattle Children's complies with applicable federal and other civil rights laws and does not discriminate, exclude people or treat them differently based on race, color, religion (creed), sex, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, national origin (ancestry), age, disability, or any other status protected by applicable federal, state or local law. Financial assistance for medically necessary services is based on family income and hospital resources and is provided to children under age 21 whose primary residence is in Washington, Alaska, Montana or Idaho.