The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Editorials

July 9, 2014

Help, hope for kids in need | Agencies provide emotional, mental support

JOHNSTOWN — We hope parents across the region were paying attention to our four-day series “Kids In Crisis,” which concluded Tuesday.

Health writer Randy Griffith provided a good news-bad news report on the emotional state of our children.

Kids face a variety of challenges, from conditions such as autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder to social factors including poverty, homelessness and drug abuse in the family.

Organizations that work with children are stretched too thin to meet every need, and many conditions go undiagnosed because the warning signs don’t always evoke a response.

Dr. Anseruddin Mohammed, a psychiatrist with Conemaugh Counseling Services, said some children go untreated because their families can’t afford treatment, or live too far from help centers.

“We need more services for children in this area,” he said.

Still, many children and their families are getting help from organizations such as the Alternative Community Resource Program and Conemaugh Counseling Services.

Their caring administrators and counselors are assisting many with emotional or mental-health challenges to cope and thrive.

Counselors rely on parents to recognize warning signs in their children, and then to communicate what they’ve observed.

“Parents are able to provide valuable insight that can help,” said Tracy Selak, administrator with Cambria County’s Behavioral Health/Intellectual Disabilities/Early Intervention Program.

Cathy Krinjeck, ACRP’s outpatient program director, said parents know their children best, and are positioned to see red flags if they occur.

Krinjeck said parents should notice sudden changes in behavior, mood, appetite or hygiene. “If they are acting out ... it’s because they need help,” she said.

If your child seems troubled – angry, sad, distant – that could be a trigger for concern.

We applaud the many parents and guardians who see the signs of trouble and react.

That includes the courageous people who told their stories for “Kids In Crisis” – including Jessica Lenhart and Lori Stafford and their families, of Johnstown; Jessica and Kaitlin Mock of Mundy’s Corner; and Amber Quinn and her family of West Carroll Township.

Through their experiences, we could show the realities of autism, ADHD and other conditions.

Lenhart has two young boys with disorders, and noted that life can be frustrating and challenging, “one thing after another.”

While these families face complications every day, we also see in their experiences an uplifting message of optimism.

The parents recognized the problems their children faced, and sought support.

The parents were patient but determined.

Quinn said it took a year for her to connect her son, Aidan Yeckley, with ACRP.

But she came to understand: “My child is absolutely amazing.”

We know there are many “Kids In Crisis” in our communities, and there will always be a call for more services.

But the process begins with parents who attempt to provide their children with safe environments and who respond when something goes wrong, and continues with caring professionals who provide help and hope.

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