Dear Dr. Beal: My daughter is starting college next week. I have mixed emotions; I am scared and happy at the same time. One of my major concerns besides COVID-19 is how I watched her when she did not get into her dream school. She became so upset and cried for days, refusing to move. What if something goes wrong in college. How will she accept rejection?
Dear Reader: We are in such a competitive world where we strive on winning, winning, winning and sometimes winning at all cost. However, anyone who has been great at something will also share that there were many times that they have failed. Teaching children how to lose and recover is so important. It may sound weird, but failure is a major part of winning. The key is to never stop trying and don’t give up. The school that she did not get into may have been a disappointment, so allow her to grief. However, celebrate the acceptance of the schools that said yes! She was competing with people from all over the country. That does not mean she wasn’t good enough, it just means that it wasn’t the right fit at that time. Use examples of people like Tyler Perry, Oprah Winfrey, Mattress Mack, and many others who were told “no” or did not succeed their first time at something. All are remarkably successful in their own right and are at the top of their profession. In helping build a resilient child into a resilient adult explain that the things that come easy, we celebrate but, the real celebration comes when we have conquered things that were difficult.
A few suggestions to helping children/young adults overcome disappointment:
Listen First: Allow your child to discuss the hurt before offering suggestions. It will help you understand them and show your level of empathy about the situation.
Make it a Teachable Moment: It is an opportunity for you to discuss adversity and introduce problem-solving skills.
Discuss your life challenges: Share with your child some of your disappointments or failures and how you made it through. Often, our kids think that we did not experience things in life that they are going through. It’s good to let them know that “we” are human.
Dear Dr. Beal: What are the signs of autism? I think there is something wrong with my son, but I am afraid to say something to my husband. What should I do first?
Dear Reader: The diagnosis of autism is given to children once they meet the criteria in the DSM5, which is classified as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). A diagnosis of ASD now includes several conditions that used to be diagnosed separately: autistic disorder, pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), and Asperger syndrome. These conditions are now all called Autism Spectrum Disorder. The Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) includes communication, behavioral, and social challenges. Challenges experienced by children can range from mild, to moderate, or severe. The key is early detection because early treatment can make a big difference.
Some children who are on the spectrum start showing signs as young as a few months old. Others seem to have normal development for the first few months or years of their lives and then they start showing symptoms. A study indicated that fifty percent of parents when questioned about their children with ASD reported noticing issues by the time their child reached one year of age. Whereas a second research study of parents indicated that between eighty and ninety percent reported noticing problems by age two. Children on the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) will have symptoms throughout their lives, but it is possible for them to get better as they get older with therapy.
Below are a few developmental milestones that you should look for in your child:
- Smiles by 6 months
- Imitates facial expressions or sounds by 9 months
- Coos or babbles by 12 months
- Gestures (points or waves) by 14 months
- Speaks with single words by 16 months and uses phrases of two words or more by 24 months
On the Other Hand, a Few Red Flags may include:
- No response to their name by 12 months of age
- Not pointing at objects to show interest (point at an airplane flying over) by 14 months
- Not playing “pretend” games (pretend to “feed” a doll) by 18 months
- Avoid eye contact and want to be alone
- Have trouble understanding other people’s feelings or talking about their own feelings
- Have delayed speech and language skills
- Repeat words or phrases over and over (echolalia)
- Give unrelated answers to questions
- Get upset by minor changes
- Have obsessive interests
- Flap their hands, rock their body, or spin in circles
- Have unusual reactions to the way things sound, smell, taste
Remember, having a mental health concern is not something to be ashamed of; what is shameful is not getting it addressed. Seek professional help. Make an appointment with your pediatrician and discuss your concerns. The next step will be getting your child to a mental health professional. Do not be afraid to seek help for your child.
- Johnson, C.P. Early Clinical Characteristics of Children with Autism. In: Gupta, V.B. ed: Autistic Spectrum Disorders in Children. New York: Marcel Dekker, Inc., 2004:85-123.
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“Good Mental Health Equals Mental Wealth”