With childhood diabetes on the rise, there is an increasing need for psychological intervention to help these people deal with the challenges that accompany the diagnosis. “Currently, there are over 150,000 people under the age of 20 in the United States with Type 1 diabetes, the most common form of diabetes in children,” said pediatric psychologists, David D. Schwartz, Marni E. Axelrad and Barbara J. Anderson from Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital. “Yet, there is little information in the literature to help practitioners determine which children are more likely to develop problems with coping or illness management and who, therefore, are more likely to need preventive intervention.” Research has shown that people who receive a childhood diagnoses of diabetes have a fifty percent chance of developing a psychological problem within the first ten years.
The psychologists were approached by the head of their endocrinology department and asked to develop an appropriate screening tool that would identify which newly diagnosed children were at highest risk for psychological problems. The team designed a tool to address coping skills, psychological education and follow-up treatment and applied it to 121 children and their caregivers over a period of nine months. They discovered that children at highest risk for psychological problems were two to three times more likely to miss scheduled clinical appointments.
“Our findings suggest that these are children who tend to cope with stress by reacting emotionally, avoiding problems, or not seeking help, and they are more likely to have behavior problems,” said the team. “Assessing child coping and behavior should be a priority for psychologists seeing these children.” They hope that their assessment program can be expanded and adapted for psychologists in various settings. They added, “Children who reported significant symptoms of depression at diagnosis were more likely to miss subsequent diabetes clinic appointments. Early identification of these children is therefore critical.”
Schwartz, David D., Marni E. Axelrad, Virginia Depp Cline, and Barbara J. Anderson. “A Model Psychosocial Screening Program for Children and Youth with Newly Diagnosed Type 1 Diabetes: Implications for Psychologists across Contexts of Care.”Professional Psychology: Research and Practice 42.4 (2011): 324-30. Print.
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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