As children grow, there may be times when their behavior seems out of place or troubling. When there is a recurrent pattern of one or more of these types of behavior, something may be wrong. As a parent, if you have noticed something “off” about the way your child has been acting, perhaps it’s time to take a closer look at what might actually be going on—before it gets worse. What to Do About Your Troubled Child is designed to provide you with the information you need to get to the bottom of the mystery. If a behavioral disorder is caught early enough and treated correctly, it can be greatly lessened or even eliminated. Unfortunately, many behavioral problems in children go undiagnosed for so long that they progress beyond the possibility of improvement.
This book is divided into two parts. Part One looks at six of the most common behavioral disorders: Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Autism, Anxiety Disorders, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, and Conduct Disorder. Each chapter focuses on one disorder and includes a list of questions intended to determine if your child exhibits enough of the tendencies associated with this disorder to warrant a closer look. It then describes the symptoms and risk factors of the problem, how it may be professionally diagnosed, and traditional means of treatment, which include therapy and medication. Part Two offers a detailed look at complementary approaches to treatment, such as lifestyle changes, nutrition, beneficial programs, and helpful devices.
Telling yourself that your child is bound to grow out of a certain pattern of behavior may be causing you to ignore the signs of a serious issue—one that should be addressed. By the time your child reaches adolescence, the disorder may be too far gone. Now is the time for you to understand and do something about it. Now is the time to let What to Do About Your Troubled Child be your guide.
Richard W. Walker, Jr., MD, MBA received his medical degree from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York and completed his residency at the University of Michigan. He earned his MBA from the Jack Welch Management Institute. He has served on the faculty of the University of Texas Medical Center, and is the founder and CEO of Walker Health Care Holdings and TVP-Care, Houston-based national healthcare companies. In addition to being a published writer, Dr. Walker is a highly sought-after speaker.
Laura J. Stevens, MSci, received her master’s degree in nutrition science from Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. Since graduation, she has worked at Purdue as a researcher, investigating the relationship between diet and health disorders. Apart from her work at Purdue, Laura is the author of eight books on diet, behavior, and allergies. Laura lives with her amazing cats, Bentley and Seis, in Lafayette, Indiana.
PART ONE. IDENTIFYING THE PROBLEM
1. Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, 7
2. Oppositional Defiant Disorder, 31
3. Conduct Disorder, 49
4. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, 75
5. Anxiety Disorders, 101
6. Autism Spectrum Disorder, 119
7. Associated Disorders, 141
8. Finding Professional Help, 153
PART TWO. COMPLEMENTARY APPROACHES
9. Lifestyle Factors, 167
10. Nutritional Factors, 185
11. Environmental Factors, 211
12. Helpful Programs and Devices, 225
About the Authors, 243
At one time or another, most parents will witness their child exhibiting run-of-the-mill problem behavior, which may include talking back, crying, yelling, not listening, or other mild behavioral issues. While these confrontations can be frustrating, they are typically resolved by proper parenting. There may come a time, however, when parents realize that their child’s disruptive conduct is definitely not normal, something is wrong, and even good parenting skills aren’t working.
As a new parent, the fact that your baby was born safely, with all ten fingers and ten toes, was likely enough to put your mind at ease for a while. You may not have considered the fact that children don’t come with individualized instruction manuals that describe how to take care of them and help them to avoid certain problems in the future. Now that your child is a bit older, if he has been consistently displaying behavioral, emotional, or learning problems, you may wish you had such a manual as you look high and low for an explanation for your child’s apparent condition. Please consider What to Do About Your Troubled Child your better-late-than-never guide. It is designed to identify your child’s condition, explain the possible reasons why it is occurring, and provide potential solutions for the problem.
But what exactly do we mean when we say a child is “troubled”? For the purposes of this book, the term “troubled child” refers to a child who has a moderate to severe behavioral disorder. Such children may also exhibit physical symptoms that are commonly associated with their disorders. Different troubled children may be affected by different disorders, but they all share a common denominator: They are all much more difficult to parent than the average child. The information found in this book is meant to make things easier.
This book has been divided into two parts. Part One focuses on the most common behavioral disorders from which children may suffer, including attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, conduct disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety disorders, and autism spectrum disorder. The chapters feature questionnaires designed to help you to identify the specific characteristics of your child’s behavior and the disorder to which they point. For each disorder, we describe traditional treatment, which includes therapy and medication, and complementary approaches, which are discussed in greater detail in Part Two. Often a combination of behavioral therapy, medication, and complementary treatment is the most effective approach to helping a troubled child.
Part One goes on to discuss the psychological and physical problems commonly associated with the major disorders described in the book, such as aches and pains, depression, poor gut health, obesity, and learning difficulties. It then explains how to find the right healthcare provider for your child, which is an important step on the path to a better life for your child. This healthcare provider might be your child’s regular doctor or a specialist of some kind. No matter the type of doctor, she should always be patient and attentive to your concerns and questions. A doctor who immediately pulls out a prescription pad and offers no other treatment options should be avoided.
In Part Two, you will find further information on the complementary approaches you can take to the treatment of the conditions described in Part One. It outlines four general areas of complementary treatment: lifestyle, nutrition, environment, and helpful programs and devices.
Whether you address your child’s sleep patterns, exercise level, diet, or sensitivity and exposure to toxic elements in his environment, these medication-free treatment methods are backed by medical science and can make a big difference in your child’s behavioral disorder. Moreover, allowing your child to take part in the right summer camp or even play the right video game can lead to noticeable positive changes in his behavior.
You may have noticed that this book uses male gender pronouns to describe children with behavioral disorders. This choice was made partly for convenience but also because boys are more likely than girls to be affected by these conditions (although girls are certainly no strangers to these problems). In an attempt at gender equality, this book uses female pronouns when referring to healthcare professionals and educators, including doctors, psychologists, therapists, and teachers.
Finally, as the authors of What to Do About Your Troubled Child, we are deeply aware of the inequities in healthcare overall, and of the implicit bias that children and families of certain racial backgrounds—particularly African American, Hispanic, and Native American children and families—and underserved communities face in relation to the topics discussed in this book. Unfortunately, the methods used to diagnose behavioral disorders often do not take into account cultural or racial disparities, which may be current or historical, and frequently see things from a Eurocentric perspective. In other words, we must question the system’s ability to make accurate diagnoses in particular populations.
This bias is perhaps most apparent in the overly diagnosed condition of conduct disorder and the underdiagnosed condition of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in children of specific racial backgrounds. Children from these communities are overly diagnosed with conduct disorder and more often considered “bad,” and less likely to be assessed as having a behavioral issue such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, which is not as stigmatized. Furthermore, they are much less likely to have had a proper behavioral evaluation, or to have access to healthcare professionals who understand their communities.
If we are truly concerned about the welfare of all children in this country, then we must not forget to take the social and economic differences between their communities into account when we make decisions regarding their wellbeing. Doing otherwise will continue to lead to tragic outcomes for kids in communities that frequently face bias in the healthcare system, including high rates of school expulsions, incarceration, and drug and alcohol abuse, as well as lost academic and athletic opportunities.
As a parent of a child with a possible behavioral disorder, you practically need to become a detective in order to track down the reasons for your child’s problem. Once you’ve solved the case, however, you may not be in a position to try all the therapies suggested by this book. If so, simply choose the therapies that make sense for you, your child, and your family—taking time, availability, and cost into consideration.
We understand that you have picked up this book most likely because you feel that something is not right about your child’s behavior. You may even get so angry at your child’s disruptions at times that you lose your temper and even consider the use of physical punishment. Nevertheless, research has shown that physical punishment is not helpful and can actually make your child’s behavior worse. Ignoring it and hoping it will go away on its own, however, won’t solve your child’s problem either. The key to changing your child’s behavior—and his life—for the better is to recognize the nature of his behavior and take appropriate steps to deal with it. We think the information provided by this book can put you and your child on this journey. If it seems overwhelming, try to remember that you need only take a single step to start.