My ‘Blogging on Kids and Behavior’ page has become something of a personal journal. I’m unsure of what I originally intended my blog site to be, but I’m pleased with my ‘table of contents’ of typed experiences and new learnings. Because of confidentiality and a slue of other laws, I am unable to tell my daily experiences word-for-word, but, oftentimes, it isn’t the story that holds precedence, but the knowledge gained.
This particular blog post is the beginning of a wealth of research that I plan to conduct in order to have a better understanding of the most challenging individual (elementary school student) I have ever encountered.
It was not until 1980 that childhood schizophrenia became understood as a separate diagnosis – before that time, children who today would be diagnosed with autism, which is a type of ‘pervasive developmental disorder’, were grouped under the diagnosis of schizophrenia.
The confusion persists today. Because of its rarity, and because the paranoid symptoms often present as hostile and oppositional behaviors, children with schizophrenia may falsely be diagnosed with conduct disorder.The diagnostic overlap is understandable given that family, genetic and imaging findings show similarities between autism and childhood schizophrenia.
Early descriptions that were used to classify autism included “atypical and withdrawn behavior,” “failure to develop identity separate from the mother’s,” and “general unevenness, gross immaturity and inadequacy in development.” See below how symptoms of childhood schizophrenia compare with these descriptions of autism.
The “hallmark” of schizophrenia in any person is psychosis, schizophrenia is a psychotic illness. This means a loss of contact with reality because of hallucinations and delusions: The so-called positive symptoms of schizophrenia.
Before psychosis appears in people with schizophrenia, there is often a phase leading up to it called premorbid or prodromal. This phase is more pronounced in children than in adults.
In childhood schizophrenia, the premorbid developmental impairments include:
Motor (movement) effects, and
In over half of children who go on to develop childhood schizophrenia, this phase is found to have started from the first months of life.
Compared with the usual onset of schizophrenia in adolescence or adulthood, this suggests there is a more severe and earlier disruption of brain development when schizophrenia appears in seven- to 13-year-olds.
Hallucinations, as with adult cases, are usually auditory in childhood schizophrenia (hearing external voices that do not exist); visual and tactile hallucinations are rarer. The type of delusion is slightly different in childhood schizophrenia – the bizarre false beliefs are usually related to childhood themes and are less complex than those experienced by adolescents and adults.
Jessica L. Arrant
STAR Program/ BAC