Magazine article Newsweek

Case Study: Helping Kids in Trouble; A Rhode Island Hospital Gives Disturbed Youngsters and Their Parents Tools for a New Start

Magazine article Newsweek

Case Study: Helping Kids in Trouble; A Rhode Island Hospital Gives Disturbed Youngsters and Their Parents Tools for a New Start

Article excerpt

Byline: Julie Scelfo

The cheerful space in Rhode Island's Bradley Hospital could easily be mistaken for a classroom. Red sweatshirts and SpongeBob backpacks fill a row of cubbies marked with construction-paper name tags. A giant schedule of the day's activities, including "lunch" and "story time," hangs on a center wall, lined with yellow smiley-face cutouts to mark good behavior. But the 14 youngsters who arrive each morning for Bradley's "Pediatric Partial" program aren't ordinary students. They're patients between the ages of nine months and six years with serious emotional and behavior problems. Some hurt themselves; others are violent and many have anxiety, depression and feeding disorders.

According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, as many as 12 million children suffer from mental, behavioral or developmental disorders that interfere with their ability to function. They're increasingly being diagnosed at an early age but treatment options typically are limited to admission to an in-patient program or outpatient counseling. "Neither is ideal," says Dr. Elizabeth Wheeler, a child psychiatrist at Bradley who founded the Pediatric Partial program in 1998. Young patients admitted overnight have limited time with therapists, may face medical interventions designed for quick results (like feeding tubes or medication) and endure the added stress of being in an unfamiliar surrounding--an especially significant issue for emotionally fragile kids. Outpatient treatment has its own challenges. Intermittent appointments make it hard for counselors to see the full spectrum of a child's behavior or gain insight into the family dynamics that may be contributing to the problem.

It was with this in mind--and a growing realization that younger and younger children were being admitted to hospitals--that Wheeler created a program that provides patients with intensive, five-day-a-week help without having to spend the night. …

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