Educational advocacy, learning disabilities advocacy     Internet Special Education Resources
Special Education & Learning Disabilities Resources: A Nationwide Directory

How Do I Know When My Child Needs Help?

by Dore Frances, IEC, M.A., founder of Horizon Family Solutions, LLC
Sometimes it is difficult for a parent to separate what is normal behavior from signs that a child may be suffering with at risk behaviors, computer or video game addiction, anxiety or depression, an eating disorder, or even a gambling addiction. As one father told us, his family and friends referred to his rambunctious son as Dennis the Menace. He was cute and loving, but he caused problems everywhere he went because of his behavior.

Over time, it became clear his behavior and lack of motivation about his goals in life "just wasn't right," as his father says. Signs can be even tougher to spot in pre-teens and teen-agers, two difficult age periods in which new social pressures add "drama" to their lives, among other influences that youth must assimilate and cope with. Another father who called with questions about his daughter wondered what is normal moody behavior for his 15-year-old vs. clear signals of depression, loss of self-esteem, and the constant lying that had started on a daily basis.

Problems with anger, lack of control over impulses, oppositional behaviors and a change of friends are often warning signs. Some children with oppositional disorders simply can't be parented in the same way as other children, as some families have described. Sudden changes in behavior also can be signs. An extrovert who becomes withdrawn, for example, or an academically well-performing student whose grades drop quickly. Behaviors may become more erratic and unpredictable and pose a risk to the child and those around him or her. In more severe cases, parents may see in their children an inability to process.

A child "just doesn't get it." "If only you'd listen" or "why don't you understand" are refrains that parents have used on their children before coming to Horizon Family Solutions for assistance.

Common disorders among children include attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, depressive disorders, oppositional defiant disorders, post traumatic stress syndrome, anxiety disorders. and reactive attachment disorders. Because mental health conditions impact the most complex organ in our body -- our brain -- there often isn't some magic sign that signals your child needs help.

We do know that mental illness is treatable, especially in children. The symptoms and severity of a mental health condition can range from mild to severe, just as the symptoms for a child with sexual promiscuity issues. When caught early enough and addressed properly, a mental health condition can be imperceptible to the outside world because it can be effectively managed. The same with sexual identity issues, for example. When left untreated, however, the condition can become severe. A child's and family's life can become tumultuous, and families can be torn asunder as they attempt to find appropriate help. A final note of reassurance -- mental health problems are not uncommon. About 1 in 5 young people suffer with a diagnosable mental health condition at any given time -- that's 20 percent of children. This isn't a new phenomenon or the result of over-diagnoses, as some popular media would have us believe. What is new is that society is finally shining a light on mental health care, and the stigma surrounding mental health services is lifting. More people are free to acknowledge they need mental health services and get the help they need. There is no parenting manual that spells this out. When you have concerns, empower yourself.

Dore Frances, IEC, is an educcational consultant, childs right advocate, parent coach, specializing in working with troubled teens and their families in the United States, Canda, and abroad. See her site at: or contact her by phone at:(541) 312-4422, or email
See our listing on ISER.COM

Disclaimer: Internet Special Education Resources (ISER) provides this information in an effort to help parents find local special education professionals and resources. ISER does not recommend or endorse any particular special education referral source, special educational methodological bias, type of special education professional, or specific special education professional.


Educational advocacy, learning disabilities advocacy     Return to ISER Home