Friday, March 5, 2010

Journals, Binders & Charts, Oh My!

Early on, I received some great advice, to document our son’s behaviors. This continues to be a useful tool in my life. If you are just starting to face challenges with your child, I recommend starting today. Sometimes it is the small details or the patterns of behaviors over time that help to define the illness.

In the beginning I would journal all the details that would lead to the rage, along with the events of the rage. But it was exhausting to spend time reviewing all of the details when it was still fresh in my mind and my stress levels were still high from the recent outburst. Now my therapist has me fill out a chart, giving quick details such as the date, time, event (like dinner time), what my son did and how I responded. Over time it was this chart that helped my doctor determine that my son was suffering from a mood disorder. He could tell that it was random behavior. He could also conclude that the rages weren’t caused by a particular trigger such as sibling rivalry or homework problems. It has also been used to measure the effectiveness of our son’s medications by observing the frequency of outburst in a given month.

Another advantage for recording behaviors is to make sure details aren’t missed. It is easy for therapists to forget details given six months ago, yet it is these details that can complete the picture of what your child is suffering from. Just today, during my son’s therapist appointment, our doctor forgot all about our son’s crowd anxieties. His first advice was to take our son to the mall several times a week to help him desensitize to his fear of crowds. But when I reminded him of several occasions where his reactions to crowds were so extreme he went into panic attacks, becoming sick, running out of stores and even swinging a punch at a complete stranger, our doctor changed his perspective.

And one final piece of advice, get a BIG binder to save all those research articles, behavior charts and drug information. This is a long road and there is going to be a ton of paperwork! The more organized you are, the easier it will be to be your child’s advocate.

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