Behavioral special needs can be particularly difficult to diagnose and to manage in preschoolers. They can be overlooked and left undiagnosed until later because it can be hard to tell when behaviors are due to just being a strong willed child and when there is serious issue. Some of these conditions also have overlapping symptoms, which just adds to the difficulty in getting an accurate diagnosis and the appropriate services and treatments.
ATTENTION DEFICIT DISORDER (ADD)
Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) is a subtype of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). With ADD you do not necessarily see the impulsivity and hyperactive behaviors that you see in ADHD. This is why, especially in young children, ADD is often overlooked and goes undiagnosed.
- Avoiding tasks that take time or are difficult
- Frequently loosing items
- Easily distracted
- inability to wait their turn
- Frequent and severe tantrums
When a preschooler is given a diagnosis of Attention Deficit Disorder they are often referred to behavior therapists to manage the symptoms and sometimes prescribed medications. There are other ways that you can support your child at home, too.
- Keep a consistent routine
- Limit distractions
- Break tasks into manageable steps
- Encourage self talk
- Promote exercise
Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder that is typically diagnosed in older children and teenagers, though it can appear in children of any age. Bipolar Disorder causes severe mood swings ranging from serious depression to euphoria. The symptoms of Bipolar Disorder look significantly different in young children than it does in older individuals and can look a lot like ADHD, too.
- Acting unusually silly
- Being short tempered
- Rapid speech
- Poor judgement
In most cases of Pediatric Bipolar Disorder, medication is necessary to help manage the severe mood swings. Other treatment options are also available though. These include talk therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy. You can also help support your preschooler at home. You can do this my learning how to anticipate and help manage their mood swings, teaching them mindfulness techniques, and how to manage their own emotions.
OPPOSITIONAL DIFIANT DISORDER (ODD)
All children are a bit challenging at times, and that is completely normal at certain ages and stages. However, when a child has Oppositional Defiant Disorder, which is a neurological disorder, there is a regular pattern of anger, defiance, and irritability specifically towards adults or authority figures. It can be extremely difficult to tell the difference between a child who had ODD and a strong willed child, but ODD does typically appear in the preschool years.
- Loses temper often and easily
- Easily annoyed
- Often angry
- Argues with adults
- Refuses to comply
- Intentionally annoying
A child psychiatrist, or other mental health professional, can diagnose Oppositional Defiant Disorder in children. Then, treating a child with ODD involves both individual and family behavioral therapy. Here are some other treatment options to consider as well.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy
- Lifestyle changes
- Collaborative problem solving
- Parent-child interaction therapy
Any time that you have concerns about your preschoolers development or behavior it is important to seek the guidance of their pediatrician. They can guide you to the appropriate mental health professional to help your child and your family.