Colorless Green Ideas Sleep Furiously

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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Early descriptions that were used to classify autism included “atypical and withdrawn behavior,” “failure to develop identity separate from the mother’s,” and “general unevenness, gross immaturity and inadequacy in development.”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:

Language impairments
Motor (movement) effects, and
Social deficits.

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

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Not Feeling Bad is NOT the Same as Feeling Good

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I always recall, near the last month of school, watching a lot of movies. I honestly just assumed that was because my teachers were just as ready for summer break as I was, which is still probably true, however, since my employment with a school district, I have learned the real reason behind the movies, class parties, and lack of academics- KIDS. BE. CRAY, like full moon every night crazy, at the end of the school year.

With my position being in a behavioral unit, the degree of crazy being higher than that of gen. ed. is kindly implied.

On top of us being upon the last two weeks of school, I have a new student who I am working one on one with 3 days a week.

This student is severe.

That being said, my blog has suffered a bit due to the “unsettledness” at work.

Today, I want to put in a tidbit about keeping ones own mental health in check for during the crazy times- and anytime.

Mental and emotional health refers to the presence of positive characteristics, not just the absence of mental health problems and being free of depression, anxiety, or other psychological issues. Not feeling bad is not the same as feeling good. While some people may not have negative feelings, they still need to do things that make them feel positive in order to achieve mental and emotional health.

Humans are social creatures with an emotional need for relationships and positive connections to others. We’re not meant to survive, let alone thrive, in isolation. Our social brains crave companionship—even when experience has made us shy and distrustful of others.

Social interaction, specifically talking to someone else about your problems, can also help to reduce stress. The key is to find a supportive relationship with someone who is a “good listener”—someone you can talk to regularly, preferably face-to-face, who will listen to you without a pre-existing agenda for how you should think or feel. A good listener will listen to the feelings behind your words, and won’t interrupt or judge or criticize you. The best way to find a good listener? Be a good listener yourself. Develop a friendship with someone you can talk to regularly, and then listen and support each other.

Jessica Arrant
STAR Program/ BAC

Borderline Personality Disorder Awareness Month

When people think of May, certain things usually jump to mind, like flowers, warm temperatures and the upcoming summer months. Today, I would like to make you aware of another May event: Borderline Personality Disorder Awareness Month!

Take a stand. Help end the stigma. You can help in the efforts to raise awareness just by educating yourself.

When I, personally, think about BPD it takes me to the future.
I work with emotional behavioral disorder children ages 8-12. Children become EBD for roughly 3 different reasons: Genetics, environmental factors, or brain abnormalities. Consequently, these are also the 3 conditions that cause BPD. Since all patients must be 18 or older to be diagnosed with any personality disorder, thinking about BPD takes me to the future of the students I work with every day. Being EBD raises their chances of becoming BPD, significantly.

People with borderline personality disorder have incredible challenges when dealing with others and themselves because they have inflexible negative behavior patterns, an unstable self-image, uncontrollable emotions, and impulsivity. Their condition is due to the above stated combination of genes, a childhood environment of abuse, turbulence and/or neglect, and erratic biochemistry.

You may be encountering a person with borderline personality disorder if you confront this type of behavior:

1) You are idealized sometimes as the greatest person alive, while at other times you are seen as the worst person. People with BPD often have skewed views of people, whether they be acquaintances or people that are an everyday part of their lives.

2) The person’s sense of self is distorted. The person doesn’t truly understand who he or she really is, so he or she tries on different behaviors. It is not uncommon for them to be distant, authoritative, friendly or hostile with the same person in the same day.

3) The person frantically tries to avoid what she considers abandonment. The person may act overly needy when their support system is removed, even temporarily, such as when a close friend goes on vacation.

4) The person tries to kill him — or herself or engages in self-mutilation. If you witness this behavior in anyone, immediately call 911.

5) The person is intensely reactive to situations or events that most people would just ignore or brush off. My patient’s reaction to the positive news about her cancer is a good example. Another example is the way a person with BPD might obsess about a situation or statement. If someone tells this individual something in an angry way, then he or she might keep thinking about the statement obsessively and cannot “let it go.”

6) He or she constantly feels empty or not really there. My patient reported these feelings of emptiness many times and often thought she wasn’t really in this world.

7) Anger is their most common emotion even when other feelings might be more appropriate. For example, when a person with BPD learns he/she has won a game in tennis, he or she might rant about the opponent instead of just enjoying the victory.

8) Paranoid thoughts are common. People with this disorder often become paranoid and imagine that people are “colluding” against them.]

9) These people act impulsively and in self-damaging ways, for example, engaging in compulsive sex, binge-eating or gambling. Because of this, BPD can often be confused with other personality disorders, such as histrionic personality disorder.

If you think a friend, co-worker or family member might be suffering from borderline personality disorder, encourage him or her to seek treatment. The most important tool is not to internalize the person’s behavior, or take it too personally. Remember it’s not about you. People with borderline personality disorder aren’t fully aware of their behavior and the effect on other people. Try to be as sympathetic as you can, but maintain appropriate boundaries to protect yourself.

Family members also suffer in silence. They are isolated and experience guilt, depression, and helplessness. In a survey, 75% of family members were seeing therapists of their own to handle these intense relationships.

Borderline personality disorder is more prevalent in females (75 percent of diagnoses made are in females). It is thought that borderline personality disorder affects approximately 2 percent of the general population.

Like most personality disorders, borderline personality disorder typically will decrease in intensity with age, with many people experiencing few of the most extreme symptoms by the time they are in the 40s or 50s.

Treatment of BPD has improved in recent years. Both individual and group psychotherapy have proven to be at least partially effective for many people with the disorder. In the last fifteen years, a new form of treatment referred to as, ‘Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT),’ has been developed specifically for the treatment of borderline personality disorder; it is a technique that appears to be promising in studies. Medication treatment is many times prescribed based upon the specific symptoms the person presents. Mood stabilizers and antidepressants can assist. Antipsychotic medications may be administered if the person with BPD experiences distortions in thought.

Psychotherapy is the main form of treatment for BPD; there are two main forms of psychotherapy treatments in relation to the disorder:

* Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT): DBT was designed specifically to treat the disorder. Generally conducted through individual, group and phone counseling, DBT uses a skills-based approach to teach you how to regulate your emotions, tolerate distress and improve relationships.

* Transference-focused psychotherapy (TFP): TFP centers on the relationship between you and your therapist – helping you understand the emotions and difficulties inevitably arising in the relationship. You can then use what you have learned in other relationships.

“People with BPD are like people with third degree burns over 90% of their bodies. Lacking emotional skin, they feel agony at the slightest touch or movement.”

― Marsha M. Linehan

It’s the ‘Shhh! Silent Problem’

It’s all on the down-low.

Jamie is 8 and has ADHD and Oppositional Defiance Disorder. She comes to school smelling like pot a couple weeks out of each month because her mother sells Jamie’s prescriptions on the street and makes her smoke some marijuana before school to keep her calm enough in class to not get sent home.

It’s often school professionals who first notice neglected kids. They come to school dirty, tired, hungry, and inappropriately clothed. They sometimes become a regular fixture in the nurse’s office, complaining of vague stomachaches and headaches. They often can’t concentrate in school and don’t do well. Some are withdrawn and depressed. Others are very, very angry and rebellious. Sometimes they substitute attitude for confidence. Frequently absent, they have little chance of keeping up with the curriculum. Unable to succeed, they stay away more and more. When the school calls the parents for a meeting, the parents seldom show up. When they do show up, they may be overwhelmed and incapable or defensive and angry.

Jordan’s teacher knows she should be more sympathetic. When he does show up, he is usually dirty and oddly dressed. He smells. The other kids avoid him. Although he is 11, he is still in the fourth grade. Frequent absences mean he probably won’t get promoted this year either. Notes and calls to his parents get no response. Jordan is neglected.

Jenny, on the other hand, always has the latest clothes and the latest technology. Her teachers are very concerned because she is sexually provocative with peers and even with her male teachers. Her guidance counselor was able to have one briefly unguarded conversation with her. Hungry for love and attention, Jenny acknowledged that she goes after sex as a route to some kind of love. The counselor has called Jenny’s mother repeatedly to request a meeting. Mother says she is much too busy. “I put off my own life long enough,” says the mother. “She’s 13 now and she can take care of herself.” Jenny is neglected too.

Neglect is found at all levels of the economic spectrum. While some kids, like Jordan, suffer the dual burden of neglect and poverty, other children, like Jenny, have parents who have plenty of material resources. They are willing and able to provide material things but not enough care and concern.

Neglected children often are undetected both because they are less obviously hurting and because America has a tradition of respecting family privacy. Sadly, the end result is that neglected children are protected neither by their parents or their community.

If you suspect neglect is occurring to a child you know, it’s important to get involved. Report it to your local child protective services. Most will allow you to do so anonymously if you prefer. Generally, a report is followed up with an investigation. Despite the impression created by high-profile cases, it is rare that children are removed from their home. That only occurs in the most severe cases, when the child is at significant risk for harm. Even in those cases, removal is usually temporary, with placement with extended family being preferred to foster care.

Sometimes the best efforts to preserve the family fail and children are placed with foster families to keep them safe and to give them a chance for a better life. Whenever possible, though, the approach in most communities and states is to educate and support the parents and to monitor the children in the hope that their own family can become a safe and healthy one. Once provided with adequate services, many parents do improve.

*All names are fictional.

Jessica L. Arrant
STAR Program/ BAC

Draw Olaf and Stop Cyberstalking

I lack any sense of abstract thinking and I am the master of all logic. Personally, it’s a flaw and something I am actively working on balancing. The flaw of my left-side-of-brain-thinking began shining through immediately upon my acceptance of a new position, which entails working with and evaluating the minds and psyche of children. When it comes to any type of childhood psychology, it is usually best to rear back and kick logic out of the door like a bright red kickball in desperate need of a home run. Children are impatient, needy for love and understanding (particularly from mother), irrational and overly dramatic, and as quickly as they are rude, they are cheerful and pleasant again. These are things that most (though not all) of us develop out of during the growing up stages and phases of life.

As I mentioned in my previous blog, https://jessicalarrant.wordpress.com/2014/04/07/teaching-children-how-to-feel-so-i-dont-have-to-deal-with-a-lion/, “kids show… Confusion as in, frustration disguised by squawking noises or rolling on the floor. Sadness displayed through anger and aggression acts, such as hitting the teachers or repeatedly stabbing oneself with a pencil. Uncertainty channeled through acts of manipulation in order to gain full task avoidance. Anxiety often looks like crawling on the floor acting like a wolf or lion (why not, nothing can hurt those beasts.)”

One cannot help a child if they can’t decode a raging 9 year old tearing apart a classroom at 2:05 in the afternoon. The decoding of the previous sentence: Possibly, the child does not want to go home, which is a strong implication of some type of ongoing abuse.

Another possibility would be the bus. Do you know the environment of the child’s bus? Where does the bus go before they pick up the child? Maybe a middle school. What are the demographics of the bus route? Perhaps the bus first stops at a behavior unit. Or maybe the other elementary school’s tutoring kids get on before the child in question. (There is a strong correlation of low grades and bad behavior.) Point is, maybe the child gets on a bus and is lightly tortured for the whole 30 minute ride.

Another question to ask could be, is the child diagnosed with ADHD? If so, it is possible that the end of the day rage is the child’s inability to process whatever activities are going on at school while knowing they are so close to going home. ODD, Oppositional Defiance Disorder, is often paired with ADHD. ODD is a persistent behavioral pattern of angry or irritable mood; argumentative, defiant behavior towards authority figures; and vindictiveness. In some children with ODD, these behaviors are only in evidence in one setting—usually at school. In more severe cases they occur in multiple settings.

If a professional cannot get out of their logical mind and get down on the floor and play Legos with kids or sketch out a scene from a Disney movie and let the kids color, then there will be too huge of a barrier between the problem and the solution.

One can’t know that flipping a desk and throwing books means, “I’m crying for help” unless one can get out of logical thinking and get on an abstract pathway.

I’m determined to equip the children I see every day with the tools to gain the stability to NOT be 13 and pregnant, 15 and selling drugs on the street, 17 and dependent on pills, 18 and selling themselves on the street. I want them to have enough self worth to know when to stop. Enough emotional stability to not be the cyberstalking ex, or the person that lashes out on social media sites with a series of rants about people they’ve never met in person, but don’t ‘like.’

My determination to help prevent the above stated has been driven by the fueling things I have seen come from my new less-logical thinking skills.
Unfortunately, we all know that just because someone is equipped with something does not mean they will utilize the equipment. Probably most people can think about encounters they’ve had with different individuals over the course of life who are able to put on a nice façade of normality, while at the roots of the person they are unstable to say the very least. I can speak for myself and say I’ve known these people in life. Showing the ability to front normalcy implies that the person has the tools for successful social behavior, but does not enforce them when the demons creep in giving them the first urge to play petty games with someone who has no clue about what is going on or why. (Or any antisocial behavior)

Teaching myself that my job stops at the equipping is a challenge. It is the job of the parents and other adults in a child’s environment to enforce the utilization of important social tools in life. Unfortunately, the type of children I see, typically, lack appropriate social behavior because it has never been modeled for them. So, how a parent will enforce something they do not possess is something I can’t allow myself to think about. I’m unmarried and 23 years old and in a 4 month time period I have wanted to adopt several children I’ve worked with… That’s me using a little too much of my right side of brain.

The past few months it has been a joy to learn to use the right side of my brain. To get in touch with my creative and colorful side in order to get in touch with a struggling child is truly one of life’s hidden treasures.
I suggest it for everyone.

Jessica L. Arrant
STAR Program/ BAC