Behavioral disorders can be hard to detect in children as the spectrum for what is "normal" is so huge. How can parents identify "normal behavior" and when should they seek further guidance or opinions? Today, Parents Ask expert Dr. Bonnie Zucker, Psy.D, gives her thoughts:
Q: How can I identify if my child needs a behavioral specialist? Are there generally red flags or signs that indicate whether my child may need some extra guidance and/or tools...Should I take him to his pediatrician or a child psychologist?
A: In terms of how to know when your child needs a behavioral specialist, the main question parents should ask is "Does my child have symptoms that cause an impairment of any kind?" In other words, are the child's behaviors causing problems for him in his life- whether it is at school, at home, with friends, or from a developmental perspective - are the symptoms holding him back from gaining confidence and/or growing as an individual?
A good place to start is the school counselor. If the school counselor can meet with the child to assess the concerns, that is a great first step. If it is clear that there are issues, parents should seek help from a licensed mental health professional - I favor psychologists and social workers, though there are many good licensed master's-level counselors, who are usually referred to as licensed professional counselors (LPC) but the titles vary state to state.