Child psychologist outlines learning, behavioral disorders

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Child psychologists say year after year, more children are diagnosed with a learning or behavioral disorder. Experts explain how to recognize if your child is facing a disorder and what to do about it.

It is a busy time for Kentuckiana families, schools and psychologists.

"Unfortunately, we don't have enough child therapists in our city to meet the need and so sometimes, parents are faced with a long waiting list when they're trying to get help," says Dr. Maggie Wright of The Wright Psychology and Learning Center.

Dr. Wright said the most common issue for her patients is anxiety. "Not only is anxiety inherited through the family tree, but children will also model learned behaviors from their parents," Dr. Wright said.

Anxiety can manifest into learning or behavioral disorders.

Learning disorders include dyslexia which is the most common, math disorder, or dyscalculia and the inability to write coherently, or dysgraphia.

There are also three behavioral disorders. "The most commonly known behavior disorder is ADHD and typically the impulsive hyperactive symptoms are what people are picking up on there," Dr. Wright said.

It can be a barrier when it impacts daily functioning.

Oppositional defiant disorder or ODD and conduct disorder or CD are less common. Warning signs include having a temper, arguing, not listening and being angry, spiteful and other more serious behaviors like lying and stealing. 

A behavioral disorder must have a pattern of disruptive behaviors for at least six months and cause significant impairment in social, academic or occupational functioning. 

"There is typically going to be something else that is causing the difficult behaviors. It could be the underlying anxiety like we just discussed. It could be they're having trouble with their learning," Dr. Wright said.

Doctors say these disorders could require medication, but often they don't.

"The first thing for parents to do if they think they're struggling with disruptive behavior in their child is to seek out the help of a licensed mental health professional," Dr. Wright said.

Treatment usually includes a three pronged approach: individual or family therapy, involving the school and involving the student's pediatrician.

"So many of our children are exhibiting behaviors that overlap diagnostic categories, and we want to make sure that we don't jump to conclusions, that we really take our time to understand the child's issues and correctly identify what needs to be done to improve that," Dr Wright said.

Copyright 2019 WDRB Media. All Rights Reserved.