Magazine article National Association of School Psychologists. Communique

HANDBOOK OF PRESCHOOL MENTAL HEALTH: Development, Disorders and Treatment

Magazine article National Association of School Psychologists. Communique

HANDBOOK OF PRESCHOOL MENTAL HEALTH: Development, Disorders and Treatment

Article excerpt

Promoting Mental Health in Preschool

As a psychologist who has specialized in early childhood psychopathology, I have observed that many disorders with an onset in the preschool years have stability over time. This book is chock-full of information about changes in neural function associated with early psychopathology. It also reinforces the notion that we as practitioners can intervene intensively during this period of neuroplasticity.

We first learn about the identification of sensitive periods in early development, and the brain pathways that underlie them. The substantial amount of growth exhibited in the first 2 years of life marks this as a critical period in the development of brain circuitry. Knowledge of this is likely to lead to more targeted interventions. We learn about how stress and exposure to biological and psychosocial risks in early life adversely impacts development. Conversely, a sensitive, consistent, and safe caregiving environment is a protective factor.

A variety of disorders are explored in depth, along with information about evidence-based assessment tools and interventions. Oppositional defiant disorder and conduct disorder can be reliably diagnosed in the preschool years. Disruptive behavior disorders affect roughly 1 in 11 preschoolers. Similarly, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, viewed as a maturational delay in response inhibition, is a valid diagnosis at this period. I learned that preschoolers are more sensitive to the side effects of stimulants and efficacy rates are lower than in school-age children. …

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