Here is a guide to parents and family who have a child with schizophrenia. The article gives insightful information about the ways to handle this neurological mental disorder.
Schizophrenia is a sad mental condition. It is a disorder which is yet not fully understood and many researches are still underway to unfold the unknowns of this mysterious mental ailment.
Many Hollywood movies and some in our Bollywood like "Kartik calling Kartik" have featured the main character with the mental ailment. On screen the story ends with a positive note and in a limited time. But in real life, the struggle is not for three hours but for a lifelong. The scripts are not prewritten and the story can take any unexpected turn any time.
From the data and survey the information that we get, Schizophrenia affects 1 in every 100 adults in mild or severe form. While schizophrenia in adults is well talked about and discussed, its existence in children is totally misunderstood and ignored.
The sad mental condition affects adults mostly.
It is clear from the data that it affects 1 child in every 40,000.
Just recently I met a set of parent who came to me for counselling. They have a son of 9 who suffers from childhood onset of Schizophrenia. Their life has been totally thrown off the regular track and the turbulent life overweighed them and dragged them to the grip of depression. The child too suffered both at home as well as outside in school and other social places. The family has totally boycotted themselves from any social gathering.
Though I meet differently abled children and their parents on a regular basis owing to my profession, this was the first time I met a case of childhood onset of schizophrenia in my professional life.
This brought back some old memories from my school days. I had a very good friend whose younger brother was diagnosed with Schizophrenia at the age of 11. He also studied in our school and was our junior. He was a pretty regular child till Grade 3. All of sudden his behaviour showed noticeable changes. A friendly child turned away into a shy child and preferred to stay in isolation for most of the time. Slowly he developed self-talk and had imaginary friends. Family noticed these changes but did not take it too seriously. They thought it to be a normal behaviour for a child and soon he will outgrow it. They thought him to be making up stories out of imaginations. But things worsened with time. His performance suffered at school. He lost his concentration and interest. He developed hallucinations. He could see shadows and hear strange sounds. He withdrew himself and locked himself in his room for most of the times. The strange sounds bothered him all the times and the shadows tried to hurt him. He became too aggressive and parents found it very difficult to handle him. It came as a shock to the family when he was diagnosed with childhood onset schizophrenia.
The family had a setback but soon they gathered themselves and buckled up to face challenges. They stayed together through thick and thin. Now the person is in his mid-thirties and is leading a near normal life. He is able to manage a self-run business of Xerox and printing after completing his formal education. He has this sad mental disorder and still has ups and downs with schizophrenic attacks. With proper diagnosis, medical help, therapies, support from family and friends, he is fighting it and going ahead with purposeful life.
It is a challenge to decipher Schizophrenia and diagnose it especially in children. Many of the symptoms might go unnoticed or can be mistaken for a normal behaviour. Hearing strange sounds, seeing shadows or having imaginary friends can happen with a regular 8 year old imaginative child. These schizophrenic hallucinations can be overlooked as an imaginative play. Parents have to be observant and alert if these behaviours keep worsening and starts affecting other things of the child. If the child does not outgrow these imaginative play over a period of time, then it might indicate towards a serious problem.
An accurate diagnosis becomes crucial to help the child.
Some important facts about Childhood onset schizophrenia:
The actual cause of Schizophrenia is not well understood. The role of genetics has been well established through research. It is a neurodevelopmental disorder and studies have established a link to prenatal insult to the developing brain and stressful life events. Prenatal insults can be due to viral infections like influenza in a carrying mother, starvation of the growing fetus, lack of oxygen at birth, and untreated blood type incompatibility.
Studies have compared children and adults suffering from this mysterious disorder. Children and adult show same abnormal brain structure, physiological and neuropsychological features but the abnormalities are more pronounced in children.
Handling Childhood Schizophrenia:
It might be the worst nightmare comes true for any parent. They have to buckle up and gather their strength. Family support is a crucial part of treatment. Medical interventions and antipsychotic drugs help with reducing the hallucinations and delusions. Studies show that newer generation drugs are effective in improving the motivation, emotional and social well-being in patients. Supportive counselling, psychotherapies and social skill trainings can help the child and the family together to cope up with the life. The child might need special education and accommodations to cope up with academic life.
Acceptance and support from family is the key element. Accept the diagnosis and move on with strength. Be your child’s support and advocate for his condition. Nurture him with love and acceptance. Boost his confidence and self-esteem. Hold him tight through thick and thin. Spread the awareness among friends, relatives and school about your child’s condition. Seek for the needed help. Try to rejuvenate yourself through activities that interest you and distress you. Join Parents group with schizophrenic kids to share and learn together. Go for family counselling regularly.
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