As parents, we all wonder why there are so many more kids with learning issues and behavioral problems than there ever seemed to be when we were kids. While we always wonder if it’s not something new due to plastics in our food, or unexpected drug reactions, we suspect it’s more likely that these very human issues always existed but were never as openly treated or discussed as they are today. Now, it seems like every family we know has one or more kids who are seeing a school specialist to address an issue.
This is a good thing and it’s time to take the stigma away from it. Too many people talk about these things in hushed, ashamed tones, or worse, think themselves better because their kids have somehow avoided any problems so far. The more we all acknowledge that these disorders are everywhere, among both kids and adults, the easier it is to get help for all of us.
Here are six common disorders in United States with an idea of how truly prevalent they are:
About 3% of teenage girls have eating disorders including bulimia, binge eating, and anorexia. This does not count the number of girls who have real emotional issues about how much they eat and how they view their own bodies.
About 20% of kids are thought to have learning disabilities, where the nervous system isn’t doing a complete job of processing information. Imagine consistently not understanding the difference between “bad” and “dad” (and hundreds of seemingly easy words like those) and you get an idea of how frustrating this might be. Learning disabilities often result in behavior problems, not surprisingly.
Upwards of 1/3 of kids may be depressed and 1/8 of adolescents.
Attention deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
Of course, we all think we have this in the high-stimulus world we live in. As adults, however, we are able to function through it though we even feel overwhelmed at time by how much is coming at us. Five to 10% of kids can’t focus their attention and have trouble concentrating.
This is the main mental health problem for all kids, affecting 13% of kids 9-17. Everyone feels anxiety at times, about public speaking, meeting new people, preparing for a test, but in these cases, the anxiety becomes severe and extreme keeping kids out of social settings entirely, and requires treatment.
All kids seem to have a touch of this as they struggle to learn the boundaries of appropriate behavior. Our job is to give them clear guidelines so they control their own behavior in the appropriate settings. Ten percent of kids, however, suffer from an inability to obey rules and consistently act inappropriately.
You may recognize symptoms of your own kids (or spouse or friends) in the above descriptions. All of them are very human actions and reactions. However, when they become severe or disruptive or debilitating to the development of the child, it’s urgent to seek appropriate guidance from a professional. These statistics give an idea of how prevalent these problems are in our cities, our neighborhoods, and often, in our very own homes.