All children can be moody, inattentive, defiant, hyperactive or impulsive at times.
And kids are known to have short attention spans.
So parents may see these characteristics and wonder: Are they symptoms of behavior disorders?
At what point do the symptoms rise to the level of a mental health issue?
When do I seek help for my child?
The Mayo Clinic says if parents are concerned that a child is showing signs of a possible behavioral disorder, they should first see their pediatrician or family doctor.
The doctor may refer them to a specialist, but it’s important to first check for a medical cause for behavior changes.
Local experts list several red flags that demand immediate professional attention.
“If the behavior creates some type of concern, that’s when to get help, not to the point of cutting (themselves) or getting so depressed they don’t want to come to school,” said Jill Surloff, clinical supervisor of Alternative Community Resource Program’s school-based program.
“If they are acting out – if there are things going on in the classroom – it’s because they need help,” said Cathy Krinjeck, outpatient program director for ACRP.
By “acting out,” Krinjeck said, she means any sudden change in behavior, mood, appetite or hygiene – or not going to school at all.
If a child’s grades start dropping for no apparent reason, that’s also a sign he or she may need help, said Dr. Anseruddin Mohammed, a psychiatrist at Conemaugh Counseling Services in Memorial Medical Center’s Lee Campus.
“If there are ongoing discipline problems in home and in school; if they are threatening to hurt others or themselves; parents definitely need to seek help from a trained professional,” Mohammed said.
The school counselor is a good starting point, administrator Tracy Selak said from Cambria County Behavioral Health/Intellectual Disabilities/Early Intervention Program office in Johnstown.
Some childhood disorders can continue into adulthood, and mental health issues normally associated with adults can start in children, Mohammed said.
Starting therapy early can reduce the lifetime affects.
Schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, anxiety and depression can all affect children and teens.
“Don’t dismiss it as part of growing up,” Mohammed said.
“The sooner you address these problems, the easier it is for them to get better.”
Randy Griffith is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter @photogriffer57.