Keystone Staff Invited to Present Childhood Trauma Study

Brian Ludden, Ed.D., MS, LMHC, NCC, CCMHC Licensed Mental Health Counselor National Certified Counselor Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselor Director, Anxiety & Obsessive Compulsive Disorders (OCD) and Military Transitions Clinic

Children with trauma are often misdiagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), oppositional defiant disorder (ODD), mood disorder or a combination of these disorders, because diagnosis can be difficult without knowing about any abuse history. This is what Rea Romero, Ph.D., neuropsychologist, and Brian Ludden, Ed.D., M.S., LMHC, NCC, CCMHC, also noted in their work with Jacob, an 8-year-old boy, who was permanently removed from his mother’s care due to abuse and neglect, possibly including sexual abuse.

They submitted a case study about Jacob that was accepted in late 2016 for a poster presentation at the 2017 American Psychological Association (APA) Convention. Dr. Romero will present the poster of their work on Aug. 5, 2017 in Washington, D.C.

Jacob has a history of erratic mood swings, anger outburst, impulse control, fire-setting, stealing, lying and aggression. Before coming to Keystone Behavioral Pediatrics to work with Dr. Brian and Dr. Rea, Jacob had been given Adderall for two years, with minimal benefit. Prior to receiving a neuropsychological assessment at Keystone, Jacob’s treatment had focused on ADHD and disruptive behaviors.

 

Regilda Romero, Ph.D. Neuropsychologist Director, Trauma & Grief Clinic Co-Director, Neuropsychological Clinic and Educational & Learning Clinic

Jacob’s assessment revealed average to superior cognitive functioning, and academic achievement, visual-spatial skills and language skills also ranged from average to superior. Likewise, other neuropsychological assessments results were at the expected level or well above the expected level.

The assessments did reveal that Jacob has problems with adaptive, emotional and behavioral functioning. Research shows that abuse and neglect can affect neurobehavioral development that is necessary for efficient behavioral/emotional control and regulation. This led Dr. Rea and Dr. Brian to believe that Jacob’s difficulties in emotional and behavioral regulation are related to his history of significant traumas associated with abuse and neglect.

Patients will receive a better treatment plan and interventions if complete biopsychosocial history is taken into account

While Jacob denied suffering from increased startled response, flashbacks and psychological symptoms, which are usually an indication of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), his emotional and behavioral problems and patterns are indicative of trauma. Jacob also struggles with handling interpersonal relations and maintaining meaningful relationships, also symptoms of trauma.

Currently, Jacob is receiving a combination of individual mental health sessions and family mental health sessions. Dr. Brian and Dr. Rea have focused on helping Jacob improve his communication with his family and on reducing behavioral concerns, anxiety and the impact of persistent thoughts related to traumatic childhood experiences. He has been taught the use of mindfulness meditation, guided visualizations, compartmentalization, diaphragmatic breathing and other adaptive coping skills for managing and reducing his emotional and behavioral issues.

Over the course of six months of treatment, Jacob’s behavior has improved considerably. As a result of ongoing family mental health sessions, Jacob has come to develop a relationship with his biological mother. Jacob should continue to progress through treatment and master the various mindfulness and self-regulating skills that he has learned in treatment.

As a result of this case study, Dr. Rea and Dr. Brian are presenting to conference attendees that patients will receive a better treatment plan and interventions if complete biopsychosocial history is taken into account. Keystone supports Dr. Brian and Dr. Rea’s research efforts and encourages all therapists to engage in research that continues to improve clinical results for the kids we serve.

For Keystone, Dr. Rea is the director of the Trauma & Grief Clinic and co-director of the Neuropsychological Clinic and Educational & Learning Clinic. Dr. Brian is the director of Keystone’s Anxiety & Obsessive Compulsive Disorders Clinic and the Military Transitions Clinic.

Aggression, Tantrums and Refusal—Annoying and Frustrating but Treatable

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Dr. Scherbarth works with a child and his parent to help them understand and relate to each other better by building reasonable and enforceable limits.

The trifecta of terrible problem behavior in children is physical or verbal aggression, with tantrums and refusal to follow instructions. These symptoms are often consistent with the diagnosis of Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD). It is very annoying and frustrating for parents and peers—to say the least. Parents often try their best to manage it—including seeking out anger management for their child—but nothing they try seems to work. That said, ODD is entirely treatable by a clinician skilled in one of several Behavioral Parent Training programs.

ODD is a pattern of behavior for over six months that has three parts: a child or teen being argumentative in general or defiant when given instructions; the child being very angry and irritable most of the time; and at times the child may be vindictive and deliberately trying to make others angry. It can seem from the outside that the child is totally fine one minute and blows up the next minute. This appearance has led many people down the wrong path to think it’s bipolar disorder—especially when the tantrums last 45-90 minutes or when they are very destructive at home or school. However, bipolar disorder is a very different diagnosis.

ODD not only causes frustration in the moment for the parent and child, it also spreads throughout the family’s entire social life at all levels.

Parents of kids with ODD often do not want to go to stores or restaurants anymore for fear that something will set their child off. Parents may hear that other parents don’t want to set up play dates anymore. Schools may send these children home early because of the disruption they cause, or they may totally refuse to enroll these kids altogether. Kids with ODD often have little or no friends, and the friendships they do develop may be very conflicted. Clearly, it takes a serious toll on everyone and this toll creates resentment in the family towards the child and from the child back towards the family.

ODD typically emerges in younger childhood (before age 5). Without treatment, up to 2
5 percent of kids may lose ODD traits on their own; however it persists for many years in half of all kids, whereas the other 25 percent have behavior that starts to become downright cruel or even criminal in nature. With a total of 75 percent of kids with ODD having years of difficult or even criminal behavior ahead of them, it’s clearly to everyone’s advantage to seek treatment by a qualified therapist who goes beyond individual anger management counseling to also include some form of behavioral parent training.

There are a number of risk factors related to development of ODD (Barkley, 2013). Individual factors from the child include having ADHD, a mood/anxiety disorder or just an irritable temperament from birth. Parent factors include if they have ADHD themselves, irritable temperament, high stress due to a number of reasons and/or being young parents. Family social environmental factors include living in an area with a high crime rate, being influenced by delinquent peers, or having conflicted marriages or a conflictual extended family. How parents raise their children is one of the most important factors. Inconsistent parenting, highly negative parenting (or by contrast, low negative but also low discipline parenting), inappropriate expectations, as well as lack of monitoring of the child, and/or low positivity in parenting are all  risk factors.

At least one parent and the child engage in the Coercive Family Cycle (Patterson, 1982). A parent gives an instruction (possibly a harsh instruction or nearly impossible instruction), then the child reacts with negativity and both continue with negativity (yelling, harsh tone, possibly escalation to destruction) until one or the other gives up. It’s not healthy for the child, even if it “works” in the moment. Worst case scenario, the child gets away without having to do what they’re told and the negative behavior reinforced. In the “best case scenario,” the adult is able to force compliance BUT then the child learns the social lesson that to be respected in the family and society, that is that a child has to be big, loud, angry and bad. That’s not a very good outcome.

By contrast, Behavioral Parent Training (BPT) aims to make an impact by changing the parenting factors. It’s NOT about finding better ways to punish children more harshly. Rather, it has two aims—to improve warmth between parents and kids, as well as to build reasonable and enforceable limits. Warmth can be provided by making sure that there’s always positive interaction time and that when the child follows the instructions, good things happen—like acknowledgement and normal daily privileges. Limits include expectations that school work must be completed school work, children are expected to clean up after themselves to whatever extent that they can in relation to their age, destructiveness leads to consequences and rude or obnoxious behavior doesn’t pay off. The consequences for destruction shouldn’t be harsh, just consistent and providing for everyone’s safety.

Of course, BPT has limits. It only addresses the parenting factors. At times, the child’s individual factors (irritability, impulsivity) have to be addressed as well, possibly in conjunction with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or anger management. However, anger management alone is insufficient. A course of treatment may take 3-6 months or even longer, depending on how longstanding the issues are and other factors. Therapy may require a lot of effort and be difficult at times, but it can’t be any more difficult than having these behaviors affecting the family for years or decades.

Behavioral Parent Training can allow the parents to enjoy their kids again, and kids to enjoy their parents. Contact Keystone Behavioral Pediatrics to learn more about how BPT can help.

Resources for Parents/Caregivers:

Centers for Disease Control

Mayo Institute

Child Development Institute

National Institute of Mental Health—DMDD

National Institute of Mental Health—Treatment of children with mental health issues in general

 

Keystone discusses child behavior disorders in Jacksonville publication

Child behavior disorders such as oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) and childhood apraxia of speech (CAS) were the topics discussed in Jax4Kids.com‘s November 2015 issue by Dr. Andrew Scherbarth, clinical child psychologist, and Kaitlyn Kludjian Shrum, a licensed speech pathologist, part of Keystone Behavioral Pediatric’s integrative team in Jacksonville, Florida.

In his article, Andrew acknowledges that ODD symptoms such as aggression, tantrums and refusal are annoying and frustrating for parents and peers. But, he also reassures parents that ODD “is entirely treatable by a clinician skilled in one of several Behavioral Parent Training programs.” BPT is effective in changing the parental factors in the Coercive Family Cycle that develops in families with a child experiencing ODD. The cycle consists of a parent who gives an instruction to which the child reacts negatively, and then both the parents and child proceed with increased negativity until one or the other gives up.

Kaitlyn discusses the struggle that children with childhood apraxia of speech face of knowing what they want to say but not being able to get the words to come out right. She points out that the first step in determining if a child has apraxia of speech is to rule out normal, but delayed, development through an evaluation by an ASHA certified speech language pathologist (SLP). If a differential diagnosis is made, the SLP will determine the best course of treatment.

Read the articles at http://bit.ly/1RLPTIw to learn more.

Aggression storyApraxia story