Advancements in Behavioral Health Care

Caring for Childhood Developmental Disorders

Current approaches to counseling and therapy are helping children with special needs and their families prosper.

Understanding Developmental Pediatrics

Many children struggle with developmental or behavioral disorders that affect their everyday lives. In fact, research suggests that one in six children between the ages of three and 17 has one or more developmental disabilities. Maybe he or she suffers from dyslexia, an autism spectrum disorder, an intellectual disability, or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, all of which can interfere with a child’s ability to process and learn. Or perhaps it’s a speech-language disorder that inhibits communication skills, or a physical disability that hinders movement.  

Fortunately, there are a multitude of therapeutic and counseling options for children with special needs, like educational support, speech-language therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, medication management, individualized counseling, and social skills training to name a few.

Including Families

In the past, the vast majority of treatment options were aimed primarily at the affected child. And while these therapies are still effective and beneficial to the patient, including the family in therapy is now considered equally as important. Parents and siblings are strong behavioral and emotional influences in a child’s life; therefore, learning as a family the best ways to handle situations and difficulties that can interfere with an educational and positive environment is vital.

Today, more systematic and inclusive approaches to care, like family therapy, parenting skills workshops, and social skills groups are recommended. After all, studies show that parents raising children with special needs suffer from greater levels of stress than those raising typically developing children. And unfortunately, the added stress can affect marriage and other family relationships. When parents are equipped with the right skills and understanding to handle these difficult circumstances, there are positive effects on the development of both the child and the family unit.

Benefits to Families

When the entire family becomes part of the treatment process, the overall quality of life for everyone involved can improve. Learning the skills to cope with difficult situations will help ensure consistency, a necessary part of helping children with special needs develop and progress.

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An Expert Weighs In

“In the past, therapeutic approaches have focused on the “identified patient,” with treatment intended solely for one individual (i.e. the child). Although there are several situations when these types of treatment are beneficial, there is enormous value in examining a child’s world through a more systemic lens. By taking into account a child’s multiple levels of emotional and behavioral influence like parents, siblings, family, environment, educational system, and more, many treatments can be enhanced to help optimize the quality of life for the child and family.”

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