I’ve already made a post detailing why intervention and resources are so important in middle and high school. You can read it here. While this age range is still considered “child” I wanted to focus more on preschool and elementary school age children.
It is a misconception that toddlers and children in elementary school do not develop disorders. “How does a 5 year old have depression? they have nothing to worry about.” Get rid of that thinking.
Depression has been detected in infancy. Babies and toddlers become depressed when their environment isn’t stimulating. Children in foster care and orphanages are the most likely to suffer from something like this. There are so many children in these environments that they often do not have someone to read to them, to show them toys, to talk to them, etc. They need the introduction of learning, colors, shapes. They need to be talked to even though they don’t understand yet. Without this stimulation, they become depressed.
Depression is not just “feeling down”. It is expressed through lack of interest in food, not sleeping, being fussy, inconsolable, not responding when they hear a noise.
The same goes for toddlers all the way up through the crucial developmental years. They. Need. Stimulation.
What about children who are neglected or abused in the early years? They don’t all grow up to be Ted Bundy, but they will lack the ability to connect to and care about people.
There is a documentary that is very verbally graphic that I will include here. Warning: this includes description of sexual abuse of a child.
To sum it up, the video is about Beth who is 6 in the film. Beth was a severely abused child who developed Reactive Attachment Disorder. At 6 years old, Beth had already been stabbing her baby brother, dogs, and parents saying she was trying to kill them for years. At 4 she killed two baby birds. How did this happen?
Beth was sexually abused by her biological father. At the age of 1, she was remembering her abuse. This disabled the ability for Beth to bond with, love, and trust others. Beth recovered moderately well after years and years of therapy. However, had she not been adopted by her parents who provided her care, where would she be now? The answer is likely jail for murder or assault. A scary reality is that children are capable of murder, too.
I briefly mentioned Ted Bundy in the beginning of this post. He was responsible for the brutal rape and murder of 30 women and girls and was diagnosed with Antisocial Personality Disorder.
APD does not just appear out of nowhere. It develops from Conduct Disorder which develops from Oppositional Defiant Disorder. Do you see the pattern yet? Bundy was neglected and witnessed violence and possibly abuse as a young child. Without treatment, his condition progressed into full blown APD. Had he been in a loving home like Beth at 5 or 6, would he still become that infamous serial killer?
These examples help me make my case for paying better attention to children. Don’t assume it is just them “being a kid”. Don’t get me wrong, it probably is!
No need to assume the worst case scenario over every little thing, but take seriously that children can develop all of the same disorders that adults can. As a general rule, the earlier the onset of a disorder the more severe it will be. This is why catching it early (if there is anything to catch) is crucial.