Child Psychologists – Melbourne

At Foundation Psychology, we have child psychologists to help young people and their families. Belinda Seymour-Wright is a Child Psychologist (Educational and Developmental Endorsed), whom works with many childhood presentations.

The more prevalent childhood disorders are often divided into two broad domains, externalizing disorders and internalizing disorders.

Internalising disorders are characterized by more inward-focused experiences and behaviours, such as depression, social withdrawal, and anxiety; the category includes childhood anxiety and mood disorders. Children and adolescents may exhibit symptoms from both domains.

Externalising disorders are characterized by more outward-directed behaviours, such as aggressiveness, noncompliance, overactivity, and impulsiveness; the category includes attention-deficit/hyperactivity dis- order, conduct disorder, and oppositional defiant disorder.

Childhood Depression

Depression is an internalising disorder, and so not always easy to recognise. There are both similarities and differences in the symptomatology of children and adults with depression. Children and adolescents ages 5 to 17 and adults both tend to show the following symptoms: depressed mood, inability to experience pleasure, fatigue, concentration problems, and suicidal ideation. Children and adolescents differ from adults in showing more guilt but lower rates of early-morning wakefulness, early-morning depression, loss of appetite, and weight loss. As in adults, depression in children is recurrent.

In general, depression occurs in less than 1 percent of preschoolers and in 2 to 3 percent of school-age children. By adolescence, rates of depression are around 6 percent for girls and 4 percent for boys. Early intervention is key, and at Foundation Psychology our child psychologists can assist.

CHILDHOOD Anxiety

Just about every child experiences fears and worries as part of the normal course of development. Common fears, most of which are outgrown, include fear of the dark and of imaginary creatures (in children under 5) and fear of being separated from parents (in children under 10).

The seriousness of some childhood anxiety problems should not be underestimated. Not only do children suffer, as do adults, from the aversiveness of being anxious—simply put, anxiety doesn’t feel good—but their anxiety may also work against their acquisition of skills appropriate to various stages of their development. For example, a child who is painfully shy and finds interacting with peers virtually intolerable is unlikely to learn important social skills. This deficit may persist as the child grows into adolescence and will form the foundation of still further social difficulties. Then, whether in the workplace or at college, the adolescent’s worst fear—“people will dislike and reject me”—is likely to be realised as his or her awkward, even off-putting, behaviour toward others produces rejecting and avoiding responses.

If you are a parent, please look at this Child Anxiety Test to help you determine if your child is experiencing problems.

Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety is characterised by constant worry that some harm will befall their parents or themselves when they are away from their parents. When at home, such children shadow one or both of their parents. Since the beginning of school is often the first circumstance that requires lengthy and frequent separations of children from their parents, separation anxiety is often first observed when children begin school.

Treatment of Anxiety in Childhood

How are childhood fears overcome? Many simply dissipate with time and maturation. For the most part, treatment of such fears is similar to that employed with adults, with suitable modifications to accommodate the different abilities and circumstances of childhood. The major focus of these treatments is on exposure to the feared object. Millions of parents help children overcome fears by exposing them gradually to feared objects, often while acting simultaneously to inhibit their anxiety. If a little girl fears school, a parent takes her by the hand and walks her slowly toward the building. Offering rewards for moving closer to a feared object or situation can also be encouraging to a child who is afraid. Compared to exposure treatments for adults, treatments may be modified for children by including more modelling and more reinforcement.

Evidence indicates that cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) can be helpful to many children with anxiety disorders. At Foundation Psychology, our child psychologists can assist your child in overcoming fears.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Internalising disorders, such as anxiety and depression, also frequently co-occur with ADHD. Recent estimates suggest that as many as 30 percent of children with ADHD may have comorbid internalising disorders.

The term hyperactive is familiar to most people, especially parents and teachers. The child who is constantly in motion—tapping fingers, jiggling legs, poking others for no apparent reason, talking out of turn, and fidgeting—is often called hyperactive. Often, these children also have difficulty concentrating on the task at hand for an appropriate period of time. When such problems are severe and persistent enough, these children may meet the criteria for diagnosis of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Promising psychological treatments for ADHD involve parent training and changes in classroom management. These programs have demonstrated at least short-term success in improving both social and academic behaviour. In these treatments, children’s behaviour is monitored at home and in school, and they are reinforced for behaving appropriately—for example, for remaining in their seats and working on assignments. Point systems and daily report cards (DRCs) are typical components of these programs. Children earn points or stars for behaving in certain ways; the children can then spend their earnings for rewards. The DRC also allows parents to see how their child is doing in school. The focus of these programs is on improv- ing academic work, completing household tasks, or learning specific social skills, rather than on reducing signs of hyperactivity, such as running around and jiggling.

If you would like more information about our Child Psychologists please call us on 9039 2177.