Child behavioural problems can result in psychosocial disorders, habit disorders, anxiety disorders, disruptive behaviour and problems with sleeping. The symptoms often vary in frequency, range and intensity; for some children the problem is short-lived and requires no or little medical intervention, but severe behavioural problems can impair a child’s development as well as bring the parents to the point of despair. Nurse Patricia Donnachie recounts one particular case where homeopathy provided both the child and the parents with hope after conventional treatment had been ineffective.
Child “A” was four-years-old when he was referred to me by his GP. He had been diagnosed with high function autism due to the fact that he had once had speech but then regressed to being uncommunicative. The child had previously been seen by a consultant genealogist who had diagnosed a missing gene. This, however, was not thought to be the reason for the child’s autism or the cause of the serious developmental and behavioural problems he was exhibiting.
The parents had tried numerous conventional treatments with no result. Both parents are professional people and felt unsure as to what to do next but knew they had to explore every possible avenue in an attempt to help their child. Even so, asking their GP for a referral to me came more out of desperation than a passionate belief in the curative effects of homeopathy.
At the first appointment I went out into the waiting area to call the patient and his parents into the consulting room and was met by a riotous scene. Child “A” was running around the room making lots of noise, although making no physical or eye contact with anyone, while his poor parents were trying desperately to keep him under some kind of control. Finally we entered the consulting room but the child remained in a hyper-active state, not sitting still at any point during the consultation. He also made no eye contact and answered no questions from either myself or his parents. In the consulting room there is a small area set aside for children where they can play with a selection of toys and puzzles, but Child “A” showed no interest in playing whatsoever.
The parents told me their son had recently started at a nursery. A good programme of learning had been organised and the staff were very supportive; but the child’s disruptive behaviour was a real problem and the staff were now beginning to question whether they could be of any real help. The parents felt as if they were being pushed into sending their son to a school for children with special needs. Despite this they still hadn’t abandoned hope of getting him accepted into a mainstream school and wanted help in getting him to a point where they would have that option. By the time the consultation was over the parents were exhausted and the room looked like a wild party had taken place.
Having listened carefully to the parents and observed the child I set about finding rubrics or headings that accurately encapsulated Child “A’s” symptomology. In my opinion these were an over sensitiveness of all senses; difficulty with speech; not reacting react well to strangers or change; and finding social interaction very challenging. From this I was able to decide upon a course of treatment and prescribed a homeopathic medicine called Baryta carbonica in a 30c dose. Baryta carbonica (Barium carbonate) has traditionally been used in treating children with development problems both mental and physical, and who may also have difficulty learning.
Eight weeks later child “A” came back for review. The parents said they had noticed a change in their son and although they were still having problems, the behaviour was different. The child was no longer constantly running around and the parents felt they were much more able to interact with him. He was also now maintaining eye contact with them, but with no one else. A report from the nursery was also encouraging as it said that Child “A” was coping better with the education plan, concentrating more and seemed more willing to join in. I recommended child “A” continue taking the Baryta carbonica on a weekly basis.
A further eight weeks elapsed before the next follow-up consultation. For the first time child “A” made eye contact with me and even answered one question during the consultation. The parents told me the nursery had reported that the child was meeting all expected goals and that they were reviewing the teaching plan, as it was felt they needed to focus on areas that child “A” was enjoying, while still working to help him improve in other areas. The nursery staff had also said how much happier they were with Child “A’s” concentration levels and behaviour. Once again I recommended a continuation of the treatment and arranged to see the patient again in three months.
At the next follow-up appointment, the parents informed me they had decided their child should be placed in a mainstream school that offered a good support network, which their local education department were happy to provide. Furthermore, Child “A” had now started to play computer games and was interacting more with others, although somewhat bizarrely he had also acquired an American accent. Although the parents and their family GP were at a loss to explain this phonological development, they were more concerned that child “A” had begun to have some twitching episodes. The parents were unsure as to the cause of these episodes but felt they were worse when the child was under pressure. I advised the parents to continue giving their son the Baryta carbonica but to increase the dose to twice a week when the twitching episodes occur.
Child “A” started school and initially experienced some problems relating to fellow students and adjusting to the new routine, which resulted in problems with his concentration and behaviour. However, since the routine has become more settled, the twitching has reduced and Child “A” is now coping well with the demands of school. With this improvement the patient is now back to taking the homeopathic medicine once a week and improvements, although less dramatic, continue to be seen.
Despite the parents being delighted with their son’s progress, they will freely admit it has not all been plain sailing. Child “A” is being taught in an assisted learning programme and at one point he was only able to go to school in the mornings due to a lack of teaching support. Thankfully this has now been rectified and he can now attend school full-time where he is joining in with others and making friends.
From time to time his behaviour can still be a problem in as much that his attention span is not as good as it could be. But if he is interested in the subject being taught he is much more able to cope with the lesson. Furthermore, he continues to enjoy computer games and has developed good eye contact. Overall the parents have seen a dramatic improvement in their son’s behaviour and concentration levels, and believing the improvement is progressive they are continuing with the homeopathic treatment.
Childhood behavioural disorders
There is a range of childhood behavioural disorders that can have many causes including inconsistent or contradictory parenting, family or marital problems, child abuse, neglect, overindulgence, injury or chronic illness, and separation or bereavement. But generally the problem has more than one specific cause. Symptoms will also vary and include aggression, anxiety or depression, poor mental performance, as well as physical problems. Constant disruptive behaviour, problems with sleeping and habit disorders such as tics – the involuntary, repetitive movements of muscle groups usually involving the head, the neck and hands – can also be indicative of a child with a behavioural disorder.
A number of medical conditions can also result in a child having behavioural problems.
Autism is a lifelong condition affecting how a person communicates with, and relates to, other people, and how they make sense of the world around them, resulting in impaired development. Children with autism may also display an increased, or sometimes reduced, sensitivity to sounds, touch, tastes, smells, light or colours. Some people with autism live relatively independent lives but others may have accompanying learning disabilities and therefore require a lifetime of specialist support.
Asperger syndrome is a form of autism and a lifelong disability. It affects how a person processes information, relates to other people and makes sense of the world. It is sometimes described as a “hidden disability” because it is difficult to tell that someone has the condition from their outward appearance. People with Asperger syndrome have what is often referred to as “the triad of impairments”. These are social communication, where listening to conversation is like trying to understand a foreign language; social interaction or a difficulty picking up social clues and knowing what to do when they get things wrong; or social imagination where they have problems guessing what other people are thinking. While there are similarities with autism, given the right support and encouragement, people with Asperger syndrome can lead full and independent lives.
ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) is characterised by the inability to attend to tasks. The child will often avoid sustained mental effort resulting in them constantly making careless mistakes. They will have difficulty in playing quietly and be very fidgety. They will also display an impulsiveness that causes them to shout out answers and frequently interrupt others. An ADHD diagnosis is made when these symptoms are witnessed both at home and school and are impeding the child’s functioning. They should also have been evident before the age of seven years and present for more than six months. Between 3 and 7 per cent of school-age children are diagnosed with ADHD.
Parents of a child who has developed behavioural problems are naturally concerned how their child’s educational and social development will be affected. The demands that the child can make on its parents can also be exhausting. Sadly, there is no quick fix for what can be very complex neurological and psychological conditions, and making an appointment to see a GP is the first step every parent should take if concerned about their child’s behaviour.
Patricia Donnachie RGN DHPNC FFHom(Nurse)