Mental Disorders in Children

According to a recent survey conducted by the Center for Disease Control, approximately 1 in 5 children suffer from some sort of mental disorder, including, but not limited to, anxiety, depression, and attention deficit disorder (ADD).  While discussions regarding mental disorders in adults have been a topic of conversation as of late, mental disabilities in children, differing by presentation, diagnosis, and treatment, often don’t get as much attention.  It is because of these variations in symptoms that may be normal at differing points in a child’s development stages, such as outbursts of aggression, difficulty in paying attention, or fearfulness that mental disorders in children tend to go unrecognized and undiagnosed.  Unfortunately, because disorders in children can be so hard to identify, many children who could benefit from treatment often do not receive it.

Not only do mental disorders in children affect the child themselves, but their family and community as well.  Among children ages 3-17, the cost of medical bills for such treatment is up to $247 billion per year, with the money going towards things like medical, special education, and juvenile justice expenses.  According to the study, the most prevalent disorder among our nation’s children is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), affecting approximately 6.8% of America’s youth population. Behavioral or conduct problems impacts about 3.5% of children, followed by anxiety (3%), depression (2.1%), autism spectrum disorders (1.1%), and tourette syndrome (.2%).  Furthermore, the study found that ADHD, behavioral or conduct problems, autism spectrum disorders, anxiety, tourette syndrome, and cigarette dependence are more prevalent in boys than girls, while depression and alcohol use disorder tend to be displayed more often in female children.

When I was in the 4th grade, I was diagnosed with ADD, a disorder similar to ADHD.  Children with ADD typically have problems with paying attention or concentrating, following directions, and thinking before they act (impulsivity).  They can also become easily bored or frustrated with what would otherwise be basic tasks.  Symptoms of ADD in children usually fall into three categories: inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity.  Prior to getting diagnosed with ADD and subsequently being prescribed mediation, I remember being easily distracted, inattentive, and very disorganized. Luckily I had a good head on my shoulders and was able to get my school work done, but not only did tasks take me longer to complete than my fellow students, but also, at times, I would make careless errors due to my inability to concentrate, which only escalated the level of frustration I was already experiencing. Furthermore, because the impulsivity aspect of ADD was a symptom that heavily affected me, I had difficulty waiting for my turn to speak, often blurting out answers or interrupting others, which in turn, caused teachers to believe I was being purposefully defiant.  My undiagnosed ADD not only affected myself, but it affected my parents as well.  My constant frustrations and impulsivities caused me to become moody and irritable with my parents usually being on the receiving end those undesirable emotions.

Being the youngest of numerous siblings and having had other relatives diagnosed with ADD, my parents were familiar with the warning signs and symptoms so they had me tested in 4th grade.  While I remember not wanting to go to the nurse’s office to take my medication because I didn’t want to feel different than the rest of the students, I remember hating the constant waves of frustration that resulted from my inability to focus way more.  Luckily, I was diagnosed at a relatively early age and was able to get the treatment I needed in order to succeed.  Unfortunately, many children, not only with ADD or ADHD but also with other mental difficulties as well, are not tested and therefore struggle to succeed, as they are undiagnosed and untreated.

While, according to the CDC study, the number of children being diagnosed with mental disorders is steadily increasing, suggesting that perhaps people are becoming more aware of the identifying symptoms, it is exceptionally important for both parents as well as health care professionals to strive for early diagnosis and subsequently determine the appropriate treatment in order to not only help the child, but also to better comprehend the influence of mental disorders, communicate the needs for treatment and intervention strategies, and advocate for the mental health of children as a whole.

Wednesday’s Children and the Law News Roundup

Judge Strikes Down Louisiana Law Allowing Kids to Own Guns, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange

A Louisiana juvenile court judge rankled the state’s pro-gun activists last week when she struck down portions of a state law allowing minors to carry firearms.

East Baton Rouge Juvenile Court Judge Pamela Taylor Johnson ruled that a law allowing concealed carry for juveniles was unconstitutional, as the statute, which allows Louisiana youth to possess certain firearms, with parental consent, conflicted with an wider law prohibiting juveniles from possessing handguns.

Minority Children Less Likely to be Diagnosed with ADHD,

Minority children are far less likely than their white counterparts to be diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), according to a new study in this week’s journal Pediatrics.

In fact, authors found that African-American children were 69% less likely to be diagnosed, while Hispanic children were 45% less likely to have an ADHD diagnosis.

New HIV Infections Among Children Have Been Reduced by 50% or More in Seven Countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, UNAIDS

A new report on the Global Plan towards elimination of new HIV infections among children by 2015 and keeping their mothers alive (Global Plan) has revealed a marked increase in progress in stopping new infections in children across the Global Plan priority countries in Africa.

The report outlines that seven countries in sub-Saharan Africa—Botswana, Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa and Zambia—have reduced new HIV infections among children by 50% since 2009. Two others—the United Republic of Tanzania and Zimbabwe—are also making substantial progress. It highlights that there were 130 000 fewer new HIV infections among children across the 21 Global Plan priority countries in Africa––a drop of 38% since 2009.

Hyperconnectivity Found in Brains of Children with Autism, Study Says, HealthCanal

The brains of children with autism show higher-than-normal connectivity along many neural networks, a new study from the Stanford University School of Medicine has found.

The study’s results may contribute to the development of a brain-based test that could be used to diagnose autism at an early stage. The findings, published June 26 in JAMA Psychiatry, were unexpected because they contradict prior reports of reduced brain connectivity in adults with autism.

Thursday’s Children and the Law News Roundup

District Not Liable in Student Bullying, Appeals Court Rules, The School Law Blog – Education Week

A Pennsylvania school district cannot be held liable for the bullying of a high school student by one of her peers, despite the fact that school officials re-admitted the perpetrator after she had been found delinquent and then continued to bully the victim, a federal appeals court has ruled.

The full U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit, in Philadelphia, expressed sympathy for the victim and her family but said that under well-established precedents they could not prevail under two distinct theories in holding the district and one of its administrators legally responsible for the bullying.

The court held 9-5 that despite compulsory education laws the school did not have a “special relationship” with its students that would give rise to a duty to protect them from harm from other students. And it ruled 10-4 that legal injuries to the victims were not the result of actions taken by administrators under a “state-created danger” theory of liability.

Past Traumatic Experiences Common Among Detained Juveniles, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange

Most young people placed in detention have experienced at least one traumatic event in their lifetime, according to a new report from the federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP).

“PTSD, Trauma and Comorbid Psychiatric Disorders in Detained Youth,” released Tuesday, included findings culled from the Northwestern Juvenile Project, which assessed more than 1,800 young detainees in Chicago between 1995 and 1998. According to the latest OJJDP bulletin, of the final sample of nearly 900 subjects, 93 percent reported prior exposure to trauma, and approximately 84 percent reported experiencing more than one traumatic event. More than half of respondents reported experiencing traumatic events six times or more, according to the bulletin.

Children of Deported Push Congress to Reunite Immigrant Families, Voice of America

WASHINGTON — The son of a Mexican woman who became a symbol of the U.S. immigration reform movement by taking sanctuary in a Chicago church to try to avoid deportation pushed lawmakers in Washington Wednesday to help families like his.

Saul Arellano and other young U.S. citizens whose parents have been deported, or are in detention for immigration violations, shared their stories with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, just days before the Senate is set to debate a possible overhaul of the U.S. immigration system.

Report: Feds Lock Children in Adult Immigration Detention, COLORLINES

New federal data released today by an advocacy group reveals that in the last four years,  at least 1,366 kids were locked up in adult immigration detention centers for more than three days. The majority were held in the jails for more than a week and 15 for more than six months. Federal rules require that minors be released from the facilities in less than three days.

The data, obtained by the National Immigrant Justice Center, a Chicago-based non-profit, comes as Congress considers a number of reforms to the immigration detention system as part of the Senate’s immigration reform bill. The detention of minors is presumed already to be unlawful becuse of a 1997 legal settlement and the immigation agency’s own protocols.

Nearly One-Third of Children with Autism Also Have ADHD, ScienceDaily

In a study of the co-occurrence of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in early school-age children (four to eight years old), researchers at the Kennedy Krieger Institute found that nearly one-third of children with ASD also have clinically significant ADHD symptoms.