Son Diagnosed with Early Onset Bipolar Disorder

Updated on November 30, 2008
J.J. asks from Twin Falls, ID
30 answers

Hello all...I'm back. My nine year old son was just diagnosed with Early Onset Bipolar Disorder. He was diagnosed with ADHD at age 5 but his couselor is sure now that those symptoms were actually the first signs of his bipolar disorder. I don't know what is in store for us now. I have done a ton of research and don't feel like I know anything. He struggles really bad with homework and neatness in all of his work. His handwriting is horrible. I read that this could be due to the bipolar. Does anyone know if he has any rights to additional help, IEP or 504 at school. His teacher is very unwilling to assist in any way to try and help him to get his homework in or anything. I don't know what his rights are. Also, when it comes to meds I am totally stressing out. I don't like the sounds of any of them. He goes to the doc in Dec to change meds. There are no support groups in my area that I know of. His roller coaster moods are about to drive me insane...I just need to know that others are going through this and that it does improve. BTW, this diagnosis was not reached easily. I fought it for a year, we tracked his moods daily, he has been in counceling and partial care.

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So What Happened?

I want to thank everyone for the tremendous support. I plan to go into his school on Tuesday and request the 504. I really appreciate the information you all gave. I will update further when I know more. (by the way, a couple of you asked where I am from...I live in Twin Falls, ID)

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B.F.

answers from Colorado Springs on

Hi J.,

Nutrition, as you may know, can tremendously help these types of things. I know of amazing nutrition that he would love to drink ;) Let me know if you would like more information. This stuff is truly amazing.

B.

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B.H.

answers from Denver on

I can only imagine how frustrated you must be! My sister was diagnosed with bipolar when she was very young and we were all so lost. My mom now works for a group called Empower Colorado. It is a non-profit organization that provide support, education, and services for families with mental illness or special needs. I know that there are several support groups that meet monthly around the state. They can also help you with dealing with the school and getting the services you need. My mom's name is Darcy Callies and she can be reached at ###-###-####. She won't be back in the office until Monday but if you would like to talk to her sooner, contact me directly and I will give you her home phone number. I hope that this helps.

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J.M.

answers from Denver on

I'm so sorry that you are having to deal with this let alone deal with it alone. I have two books I would recommend by the same author, Dr. Doris Rapp. "Is This Your Child?" and "Is This Your Child's World?". The first one address food allergies and the effects that they have on children. (Poor handwriting, ADHD, geographic tongue and many more) The second address environmental allergies such as mold, formaldehydes etc. and their effects on behavior and such. There just might be something more going on than even the doctors/therapists know. There is an environmental allergist here in the Denver area that is very good at helping with these issues, Dr. Nicholas Nonas. He helpled my friend keep her son off of ADHD meds by changing his diet. Mark was allergic to soy, corn, citrus, wheat, dairy, legumes and garlic. Start reading labels, corn syrup solids and citric acid are in virtually everything processed not to mention MSG. Best of luck to you and your son. It doesn't have to be like it is. J.

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J.N.

answers from Salt Lake City on

First realize that there is nothing to be ashamed of. Bipolar disorder is a medical condition caused by chemical imbalance in the brain. We expect to treat a child with diabetes, asthma, and other conditions with medication, but we freak out about meds for mental illness. I can tell you from personal experience (I have bipolar disorder too) that medication can make a world of difference and help him feel back in control of his life again.

For the school, I would first get all the information from your son's psychiatrist about what his needs are. Get it in writing. Then take it to the school and insist on an IEP. You may need to go to the administrator - or even the district - but your rights and your sons rights are that he is given the accomodations necessary for his needs. If you feel like you need to change schools to be treated fairly, go ahead and do it. You are your son's first and best advocate. If he is given the help he needs, he can live a pretty much normal life.

One final note - (don't know if you've encountered anything like this yet) - always put the child first in your language. Don't say that he is bipolar (or ADHD or diabetic or whatever the illness). Say that he has bipolar disorder. I am not the disease and I don't like being labeled as such. I am a person with bipolar disorder, but I am so much more that 'bipolar'. It seems like a little thing, but language can make a big difference. If you refer to him as a having bipolar, rather than being bipolar, in any conversation with anyone, and expect others to do the same, you send the message to him that he is still a person who doesn't have to be controlled by the illness. Little thing, big impact.

Good luck - hang in there. He needs you. You can do it!!!

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M.M.

answers from Great Falls on

J.,
about school:
bring to school the document from the doctor with the diagnosis. THE SCHOOL MUST PROVIDE YOUR BOY WITH EXTRA HELP IN LEARNING! This is a law, and if they do not, you can even sue them.
About you:
stay calm, it is a working situation, and your smile helps more than your sour face. You are like a warrior in the battlefield, and you need to win this war, so think every minute what helps, and work with your emotions closely, not to let them invade into your situations.
About your son:
he needs close monitoring, and caring support. Do not please scold him, and punish if he does not accomplish the things well. Whenever he succeeds even a little bit, support him with praise and saying how well he did.
You walk through it together.
Definitely, seek for advice, groups, online sites, everything helps, you will hear many good ways how to work it though.
medications:
I have a problem with it. Anything what might be good, also has a side effect. You probably need to also talk to nontraditional medicine people, ask what they think, what they suggest, and go how your guts feel, after all you are the mom, the closest to him,,and you feel him very deep.
In Co-op store, where they have a pharmacy department, there usually work people who know tons of great tips, professionally, to give you much advice as well.

Keep your smile, and move smoothly:
your son is most probably a very talented soul, they usually are,: just, very sensitive, and this makes life in this world hard. You need to help him to undig his creative personality and move in the direction of developing his best sides of his mind, emotions, and skills. Good luck, dear!

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S.M.

answers from Salt Lake City on

Hi J.,
You most certainly have a full plate, adding bipolar to that has to be stressful and worrisome. My oldest son is ADHD and had tourettes syndrome. We did medicate when he was 9, at the time his tourettes was violent movements that hurt him. Also the ADHD was very high. As medical knowledge has advanced we found that a lot of changes with diet helped, avoiding as much food coloring as possible, eating fresh veggies and fruit and not canned, less sugar, salt and colorants when doing it fresh. We probably still would have used the meds but maybe not as much.

My sister-n-law is bipolar and hates taking her meds but is completely functional when she does, when she doesn't take her meds her mood swings are extreme, difficult, and hard on everyone including her. It truly is a chemical imbalance for her and the meds are life saving, staying on them and not getting on and off is crucial. Think of it as vitamins instead of meds, they are balancing the chemicals in his brain not doing something harmful to him. This is also not something he can control and the meds can.

I would continue to research as much as possible, you most certainly should be able to get an IEP for your son. I would go talk to the reading and learning specialist at your school. They should set up a meeting with you, the learning specialist, your sons teacher, and the prinicipal. Discuss what is going on, have your Dr.s diagnosis with you so they know medically what is happening. That should get the ball rolling. My youngest son is dyslexic and has an IEP that we all meet a couple times a year to look at his progress, I am very involved with communication with the teacher, if this teacher won't work with you ask to have him moved to a different class, talk to the other teachers and find out if any have special training that would help them understand where your son is coming from.

You have to be your sons advocate and an active one in moving things along. Sometimes I think teachers just find difficult behavior takes time from their class and if they know there really is a medical reason for the behavior they will be more understanding. The learning specialist can be your sons best friend. They have made such a difference for my son, life changing in how he learns and copes and doesn't feel bad about being dyslexic partly because of how great the specialist at school have been. You can go to ABIDA.org, they are actually a reading specialist group but they also have classes and info. on what rights you and your child have, what legally can be done, what an IEP includes....

Good luck, have fun with all your activities and stay consistant with your son, it most certainly makes his life more challenging but by no means less fulfilling.

SarahMM

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C.M.

answers from Colorado Springs on

You mentioned "rights" a couple of times . . . so - first of all your son has the right to his mom's love and attention and the best care that YOU can provide for him. If you are looking for something outside of this you are belittling yourself as a parent.
It sounds like you are trying very hard and that you are a really caring mom.
I know it's not easy . . . . I've been there with several children and their "off the charts" behavior.
I highly recommend taking a different approach (if you haven't tried any of this already) - and look into alternatives to the traditional medical/school system/counsiling options.
We have had much success with Allergy elimination - you may not think this is an issue, but allergies can manifest themselves in many ways. It is worth checking out.
Also, Brain Integration therapy is a very short term treatment that is not expensive and you will see very cool results!
Cranial Sacral therapy is also extremely beneficial.
If you need more info - just send me an e-mail.
There are people at Whole Foods in the supplement department that can advise you on certain supplements that would be helpful. One that I really like - for "situations" is called Rescue Remedy.

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R.M.

answers from Colorado Springs on

Regardless of how the decision was reached, get a second opinion! I am studying to be a psychologist, and I get very nervous about any diagnoses in young children. I'm not saying that the diagnosis is wrong, but please check with another doctor before going down that road.

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C.G.

answers from Denver on

Been there. You have to get some support for yourself, however you can. It is very difficult and I wish I had considered an emotional supportive classroom although none was ever offered. My child never got enough homework in to do well (even if he completed it) and was just smart enough to pass w/o it but it gets harder in middle and high school. Things are finally much better now. Here are a couple of on line resources. PMessage me if you need to vent.
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/medicatedchild/pa...

http://www.bpkids.org/site/PageServer?gclid=CNPl_YTuvI4CF...

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S.L.

answers from Pueblo on

J.,

YES, YES, YES !!!!!!!!!!!!!! Your son has tremendous legal rights to get the help and education that he needs. It is the law that he is given an IEP and the necessary modifications that he needs. I used to work at the Colorado Boys Ranch and since your son has been diagnosed with Bi-polar disorder it is just as legal to get the help as a child with a learning disability. The diagnosis of bi-polar qualifies him for lots of benefits by the state to aid with his education. I am sorry that you are having such a difficult time right now. If his teacher is not supporting him....I would look into changing teachers. You did not mention where you live. I would love to help you find some extra support for you and your son.

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C.T.

answers from Salt Lake City on

Contact your school counselor asap...your son absolutely has rights guaranteed in the classroom under a 504 plan. If your school does not have an on-site counselor, then contact the district. If you're in Jordan School District, then you need to schedule an intake appointment at the Jordan Family Education Center...they can put you in contact with support groups, classes, and other helpful information. Good luck, I'm sure you feel overwhelmed. If it helps, my mother has bi-polar disorder and has led a full, happy and productive life.

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D.F.

answers from Pueblo on

I agree with the second opinion, simply because it never hurts and is almost always a very, very good idea. Especially when it comes to mental illness and/or young children.

As someone who has paranoid schizophrenia and bipolar disease in her family, just know that you'll be in my prayers. (((hugs)))

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S.S.

answers from Denver on

He is entitled to both an IEP and a 504 plan by law. He will qualify for special education services under the category labeled Other Health Impaired (OHI). Your school district is legally bound to address his needs with this diagnosis.

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B.M.

answers from Colorado Springs on

Wow! Look at all of the caring responses. I would just like to let you know you are not alone.

My son (now 18) was diagnosed as bipolar at 12. We went the counseling route from the time he was 5 until he finally manifested. I think the combination of the correct therapist and doctor can make all the difference in the world. I was lucky to find a psychiatric nurse just about the time my boy manifested the symptoms. I wish there had been this kind of support out there for me when this first happened to our family. It is a scary time, but believe me, you and your boys will be ok. My son and I have a great relationship.

The book, "The Bipolar Child" was the first one recommended and I bought it right away. It explained alot and can answer lots of questions about how to deal with schools and other issues. I immediately got my son on a 504 plan and it did help him through junior high.

Make sure you get the support you need to keep being a great mom!! It makes all the difference.

If you ever want to talk please feel free to email me at home at [email protected]____.com care and God bless.

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L.L.

answers from Billings on

Coming from a family of teachers -- I know that the early diagnosis of meantal health disorders such as anxiety, depression, bi-polar, etc. is new and the schools still struggle a little bit on how to approach in teh school environment, and relating that to emotional and behavioral disorders that they have been dealing with. It might simply be a situation where your teacher/school aren't sure what to do or how to approach the situation. Come up with a plan of action and work with your teachers instead of expecting them to do the guiding. They will appreciate your preparedness and willingness to work _with_ them. Be open minded.

I think this was already mentioned--but look at some of the diet suggestions. I friend of mine has 7 y/o with fairly severe anxiety and one with depression (6 y/o---they were adopted from special needs parents) and adjusting their diet has been helpful. I think there is a new study about one or two of the dyes (like red dye or something) in ADHD boys, which might impact the bipolar too? I personally love naturopathic doctors (but im also personally wary of ones that aren't MDs)...there are a lot of things you can do with vitamins, minerals, etc. and they might have ideas on diet too. I always ssee mine in conjuction with my standard medicatl treatment and combine the two...just make sure the "medical" doctor and the naturopathic both know what hte other side is doing....some medications and herbs/etc can interact.

Good luck!

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D.W.

answers from Great Falls on

J., Check out www.truehope.com They have 25000 people on their program with high 80's -low 90's % success rate. Its vitamins & bunches of minerals (lots of good calcium) & a grapeseed extract. I've been 'looking over their shoulder' for 10 years & it looks like they "have it figured out". They have tons of personal, 1 on 1, help, available. Check out the website & email me @ [email protected]____.com , if you want to hear what I, as an independant observer, have seen. Good luck David

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S.S.

answers from Colorado Springs on

Hi J.,

Please email or call me at PEAK Parent Center. PEAK is the parent training and information center for Colorado for parents of children with disabilities, all disabilities. A Parent advisor, I'm one of them, will help you locate local advocates, and give you advise on how to make the IEP work better for your son. We hear your concern, and just know that you are not alone in this.

S., parent advisor and mom to 3
PEAK Parent Center
###-###-#### Colorado Springs
800-284-0251
www.peakparent.org
[email protected]____.com

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T.M.

answers from Denver on

My heart goes out to. It must be very difficult to go through this. I read that his teacher is not willing to help in any way. I would go to the schools prinicipal. The teachers are there is help and teach our children and if the teacher is not willing to take a little more time with a student, they shouldn't be a teacher.

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J.P.

answers from Salt Lake City on

If your son is falling behind in school, and lacks math processing, and is a terrible speller, He might qualify for special training in a program called "Learning Technics" I have a son that used the methods taught. It helped him learn how to control his anger, spell better, read better, and other things too. THis program will help him catch up in school if he is behind, they cater to the right brained kid. Some kids have to learn by hands on, they have a hard time sitting in a classroom listening to the teacher and being quiet. This just doesn't work for some kids. Check it out on the internet and see if this might be a program he could use.

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K.D.

answers from Denver on

Check out www.interactivemetronome.com It is typically for learning disabilities, but my mom has seen good success with her students that have come with bi-polar. It particularly helps with the anger. Since it helps with LD, it may help with the school issues. I know my mom had one kid who was able to get off all his meds. Sounds like a very similar situation. I wish I had more to offer. This must be a difficult time for you. I hope you can get some calm and order back to life and get some good answers soon.

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E.E.

answers from Fort Collins on

I have three children who are now adults with bipolar disorder. Two were ADHD and one ADD. It is rare to have bipolar disorder diagnosed at this age. I took my kids to the childrens hospital in Salt Lake City. I was also resistant to the diagnosis but I made sure that We saw a child psychiatrist who specialized in these types. They were not diagnosed with bipolar until teenagers. That is usually when the chemicals change. At puberty. The hospital also put me into a parent class and also into a sibling class to teach me skills in dealing with it all. I would have lost it if it hadn't been for the support and 24 hour access to ask questions. I am single too.
Your child qualifies for an IEP Program with just ADHD. There are also advocates available too. You will need to educate yourself or join a support group so you will know how to deal with teachers, other parents that do not understand the disability. Research the meds. Ask your pharmacist, they are very knowledgeable about trends in medication. Take your child for a second opinion to a childrens hospital. Always ask questions and don't back down until you have the answers. I live in Fort Collins and I would be glad to assist you with finding any help you need. I can also send you a website address if you want more information.you can reach me at: [email protected]____.com
E.

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L.P.

answers from Denver on

I recommend the books and a DVD by Janice Papolos and her husband, Demitri Papolos. Go to their website at www.bipolarchild.com . Lots of helpful information and someone who understands, really understands, what you and your child are going through. They also have a model IEP and recommendations on how to advocate for your child in the school setting.
Another helpful resource is the Juvenile Bipolar Research Foundation. There are links to that organization on the Papolos website.
I also meet regularly with three other moms who have children with bipolar disorder. Not a big formal support group, but just hanging out with friends who really understand. We share stories, resources and hugs.
My prayers are with you. I hope these resources will help you and I hope you find friends who can walk this journey with you.

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M.M.

answers from Denver on

J. - I can't personally relate to your dilemma but I would try two things, first, change his diet and feed him very healthy foods. No sugars, maybe cut the dairy a little and the wheat. You'd be amazed what a healthy diet does for kids behavior, and second, I would seriously consider switching schools. Might not be an easy task but you need to find a school with teachers willing to help. Shame on that teacher. Good luck!

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N.W.

answers from Salt Lake City on

Hi Jamie-

Growing up with a mother who was bi-polar, I understand what you are going through. I couldn't begin to imagine having to be the real parent in the situation. I felt I grew up way too fast and wasn't able to be a child because I always had to take care of my mom. He sounds rapid cycling? Is he more manic or depressed? What meds has he been on? What do they want to put him on? I do know that a lot of kids who are diagnosed with ADHD ultimately get diagnosed as bi-polar... I am so sorry that you have to deal with this, let me know if you have any questions or concerns in your overwhelming time.

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E.B.

answers from Salt Lake City on

J.,

First, let me give you Kudos for recognizing the problem and being willing to address it. Second, you have rights and so does he. You will have to advocate for them.
The first thing I recommend is that you get in touch with the National Alliance of the Mentally Ill.(NAMI) They have a family to family support network nationwide. They have excellent information about your son's problems and can help you find solutions in your community for addressing them.
Second, Take a note from your doctor with the diagnosis to the special education department or principal for your school. INSIST he be evaluated and placed on an IEP. if they say he doesn't qualify, tell them you want an OHI designation (other health impaired). This will give you specific rights under IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act). This is important, as it will ensure his legal right to an education and other services now and it continues through into adulthood.
Third, get some counseling and a support network for you. A mentally ill child is a huge caretaking task (I have two) and if you don't get help establishing boundaries,and taking care of yourself, your existence can become hellish. Don't let it get to that.
Fourth, get him on meds right away. His brain is wiring itself for adulthood, if it wires itself in the absence of necessary neurotransmitters for impulse control, he will always be unable to control himself. Don't let that happen. We know more about these disorders than in the past and you need a good pediatric psychiatrist to help you on this journey. Take him where ever you need to to get that.

I have walked this road, my parents both have mental illness diagnosis and my husband and two of my three children also suffer with major psychiatric disorders.Doing little or nothing will only result in heartbreak and other painful experiences.

Best of luck,
E.

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K.D.

answers from Provo on

Be grateful he has a diagnosis. My sister struggled all through her teen years with early onset bi-polar and it was very hard on her. Now she has a son in the same situation, but with a diagnosis he can get help early and (hopefully) not have the same tough few years that she had. Medication for bi-polar disorders is necessary to help your son regulate the chemicals in his brain. You could look at a healthier/more natural diet (as some suggest -- a healthy diet can't hurt) to help with some of the manifestation of symptoms, but don't wait on medication just because you want a "natural" cure. I have seen my grandmother, sister, and nephew both on and off prescribed medication -- and being on medication REALLY helps them to be normal people.
A quick note regarding any herbal remedies -- my grandmother took them for years. They didn't help regulate her moods and they destroyed her kidneys, which is what killed her. The herbal supplement industry is not regulated like the drug industry so you have no idea of the strength the herbs you are getting and the purity. Herbs can be potent and dangerous.
Good luck to you!

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L.S.

answers from Colorado Springs on

J.,

First of all let me state that I am very sorry that you are having to struggle with his school. A medical diagnosis of BiPolar can be a frightening experience for many parents as well as the child. If you doctor is recommending medication it would be wise to follow their advice. Medication at any age is a scary thing but the doctor's are the best to handle the "swings" with proper dosage.

I understand that you want to get some additional supports with you child's homework and perhaps some handwriting assistance. While a medical diagnosis does not necessarily qualify you for an IEP it would be grounds for a 504. If the fact that your son's academics are suffering as a result of his diagnosis then you have the right as parent to request formalized testing. The testing should take place within 45 days or your formal permission is received. A team (including you) then convenes and makes decisions based upon the results. An IEP is not written just because! This is a federally funded program to protect the rights of children with disabilities.

If I were you I would request a meeting with the school psychologist or counselor to discuss your options. You may also want the school administrator present.

Someone also suggested reading "The BiPolar Child" and I would highly recommend you reading it as well. It not only helped me as an educator but gave me some really great insight on assisting other educators in working with students that have BiPolar issues.

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M.B.

answers from Salt Lake City on

He should be eligible for special education due to his diagnosis. He could qualify for special ed through either the classification of Emotionally Disturbed or Other Health Impairment. I am a special ed teacher. I teach at a residential treatment center for kids that have mental illness. You should be more assertive with the teacher and the school administration in order to get him tested.

As far as support groups go, you can contact NAMI (National Alliance for the Mentally Ill) for education and support. Utah has a chapter. Their phone number is ###-###-####.

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J.L.

answers from Provo on

Yes you do have rights. I was a teacher and as a teacher we are supposed to accomodate for these kinds of things. You probably do need to get an IEP or 504 or something, for the teacher to be more willing. Really they should be more willing already. I had a student that had these kinds of problems he was a teenager. Most teachers are very simpathetic to visible disabilities, but they struggle with the other. Unfortunately. I know as a Mom that has to be so frustrating. You know it isn't your fault, but teachers with all the kids they have to deal with sometimes like to think it is, so they don't feel bad about not accomodating. It is hard as a teacher to have to worry about these kinds of things too. But it is something that they need to do.

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S.D.

answers from Fort Collins on

Hi J.,

I've been noticing lately that many behavioral problems are found eventually to be or treated by improving digestive/allergy problems. You said that you had him retested for the allergies, did you check on the ones that he had previously and they were gone, or was it a complete retest?

A friend of mine found out that his dysfunctional teen-age daughter's consistant behavioral problems were caused by a chemical imbalance in her brain triggered by consuming wheat gluten, which she is highly allergic to.

A different friend had severe migranes consistantly and they were finally (after numerous hospital lab tests) found by a chiropracter to be the result of a sulfide allergy- sulfides are in almost everything!

And I was just reading an article about uncontrollable and self-destructive behaviors (head banging) in autistic children being reduced with probiotic supplements to equalize the digestive function.

Also I recently read that the actor who played Harry Potter has a disease that makes motor control between the body and the brain more challenging- leading in his case to bad handwriting.

I totally understand if you want to fight this diagnosis- it seems like some doctors try to find the easiest or the easiest "treated" diagnosis just to collect the fee and get you out so they can go golfing or whatever.

If you have questions aboout it research the accepted symptoms- if they don't fit, maybe it's grounds for further testing, maybe more extensive allergy testing could find a source of the problems that was previously over-looked. I am all for finding a solution that actually improves things instead of just covering them up.

If it comes to it possibly try the new meds and see if there's a notable improvement. If you do conclude that it's bi-polar; you should join a group on-line if you want to gain support and learn from others who face a similar behavioral disorder in their children. I hope that you can help him and you are doing the right thing by wanting to find-out more, maybe someone at his school could be a helpful reference for you:)

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