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OF mental health care and mentally ill

Treatment of mental health problems in childhood

The long-lasting biological basis for the problems needs to be emphasized to teachers and parents. Support for the family is crucial regarding management of the child. Parents need to adopt a consistent attitude to parenting with clear guidelines for acceptable behaviour.

Simple time-out procedures can be used for unacceptable behaviour. Encouraging the child’s sustained attention on jigsaws and Lego can increase the child’s attention span. More formal behaviour management techniques can be helpful with children who show milder versions of the problem or are too young for medication. Advice to teachers on the nature of the problem and the management of children with ADHD is crucial. Most children with hyperactive disorder require high levels of supervision and encouragement to remain on task. Medication is by far the most effective treatment for hyperactivity.

Psychostimulants, such as methylphenidate, have a beneficial effect on restlessness, inattentiveness and impulsiveness. Improvement in concentration and attention can increase academic performance leading to improved self-esteem and confidence. Common side effects of psychostimulant drugs include reduced appetite, weight loss and difficulty in falling asleep. Most children will need to continue medication at least until their early teens. Outcome can be determined by the presence of other concurrent disorders such as Asperger’s syndrome, autism and conduct disorders.

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