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This is a follow-up post from Meet My Explosive Child post. It originally appeared in March 2015 and was updated in March 2017.
Seeking help for our explosive child seems like it would be easy, right?
I mean, if you’re an adult, you know how you are feeling and can call the appropriate doctor; your primary care physician if it’s medical, a therapist if you feel it is mental, a dentist if it’s your mouth or teeth. You know.
For children, it is so much harder for them to explain to you what is going on that seeking help for them is nearly impossible.
Where to Start
After mentally noting behaviors, I talked to friends.
I am not here to blow smoke. I am here to tell you what I did and how I did it.
I talked to friends to see if the behavior was normal, what their thoughts were, etc.
We shared B’s behavior with family and friends and sought out any advice and tips we could get. We really had no idea where to start, but with all the information we gathered, we started our game plan.
My memory is nothing like it used to be and frankly, in the mess of things (and the continued mess of things), you aren’t going to remember it all.
Document the day, date, time (or at least time of day), what happened before, during, and after.
For example, it may be a Wednesday evening at bedtime, on winter break. He was asked to go to bed and he flipped out throwing things, yelling, and hitting his dad. It lasted approximately 20 minutes and when it was over, he went straight to sleep.
This type of documentation – though it doesn’t need to be detailed – will help when it comes to the many appointments.
What we may not notice as a pattern or a precursor (trigger) to a behavior; a trained and licensed professional may see something.
Tracking behavior after being prescribed medications will also help know if the medication is working, not working, if a dose needs to be adjusted, etc.
Here is a demo on how I used ours for behavior documenting:
Documentation has been a lifesaver.
We went through the following steps once we figured out that his behavior was not “normal”.
In short, the goal was to eliminant every other cause before deciding it was in fact, a behavioral issue that could mean something much more.
1. Dentist – We took Blake in for his dental exam and to make sure there was nothing orally wrong with him that could be causing sleep issues which could result in behavior issues.
2. Doctor/Pediatrician – We took Blake in, essentially, for a physical. After a physical, they stated they did not find any medical health concerns and that neurologically, he appeared healthy. Our doctor’s recommendation was to see a therapist (which we already had scheduled.)
3. Therapist – With children, you can’t just call on any therapist; you need to seek a therapist who has education and experience working with children.
IF you have a diagnosis, they will need to know what that is. Not every child therapist specializes in specific behavior (something I have learned from visiting several, non-helpful therapist.)
Additionally, when making an appointment, be clear as to what your child’s behavior is. Therapists do not have to take on clients – they can (and will) turn away clients they do not want to deal with. Do not waste your time with someone who doesn’t want to or does not feel qualified to see your child.
We took him to a therapist to see what a professional thought. Unfortunately, they didn’t give me much to go on.
(A) The therapist claimed to be a child therapist, but when it came down to it – he was a therapist who had experience with children. He did not actual do child therapy. Therefore, he recommended we seek a play therapist for Blake (which there are very few of in our state.)
(B) He provided me a handful of diagnoses that he thought we would find, but that he couldn’t assess that.
4. Child psychologist – Our journey to find a child psychologist took us about 3 months. Finding a child therapist was difficult. Find a child psychologist felt like it would never happen.
To be very open and honest here – if you are on this journey – make an appointment for a child psychiatrist or psychologist first and then see everyone else in the interim. This goes for adults and children – if you are new to a psychiatrist or psychologist office – there will be a long wait list to get your initial appointment. At least schedule the appointment – you can always cancel it, but there will be a wait list to get an appointment.
Things to consider here:
* Ensure they can assess your child. That they have the professional and educational capacity to actually assess your child.
* If you can find a child psychiatrist, that is going to be better in the long run than a child psychologist (unless you don’t mind seeing multiple doctors.)
* If you can find a pediatrician who specializes in a specific mental health field, that’s even better.
A psychologist can assess, but cannot administer medication.
A psychiatrist can assess, diagnose, and prescribe medication. Unfortunately, in our experience, they aren’t the best at involving, educating, and interacting with our chid or family.
A pediatrician who specializes in mental health is a Godsend (that’s where we sit currently.)
5. Child psychiatrist – This has been the most difficult of the entire journey. I lost count of the tears cried and the frustration yelled at not being able to find what we needed.
Finding a child psychiatrist – ha! Such a laughing matter. (It pains me to know that there are so few mental health options for children.)
Finding a child psychiatrist that had openings without a 3 month wait list? A joke.
After trying for 2 months, we finally had our insurance put out a call to all vendors. Fortunately, with that call to vendors, we ended up finding a child psychiatrist with an opening in the very near future.
We saw our psychiatrist for close to 2 years before moving on and the only reason we did is because the next person specializes in kids, mental health specific to what we needed, and we found we had a better connection with this next specialist.
6. Pediatrician specializing in Mental Health – We have a children’s mental health “clinic” of sorts here in Arizona that has been the best thing we have found.
It is more expensive than all of the above (even with insurance) but we have receive more answers in the short time we have been there than every other visit; medications are prescribed by this pediatrician; she keeps an eye on his medical aspect (weight, height, blood pressure); she educates and involves.
I will share the process of our visits and assessents in the next post, but remember to grab your free printables to document the behavior and join our Facebook group to see the video of how I used our behavior trackers.