Middle Childhood Intervention: Module Two – Special Needs & Conditions

Category — 2.9 Children with Mental Illness: Schizophrenia


Schizophrenia is a complex group of disorders that has many symptoms. Schizophrenia usually starts in the late teen to early adulthood years, but more and more children are being diagnosed with schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is a disorder in which the child loses touch with reality. The child has difficulty telling the difference between what is real and what is not real. Schizophrenia has a large impact on the mental and emotional states of those who are diagnosed with it. That is mainly because schizophrenia affects the way a person perceives (that is, how a person sees and feels) the world, and interacts (that is, how a child connects with others and relates to them) with it.

Schizophrenia has many symptoms. The most common symptoms are:

  • Having hallucinations (seeing and/or hearing things that are not really there), which include:
    • Auditory: hearing voices (child hears a voice inside his or her head, sometimes the voice tells the child to do something he or she may not want to do);
    • Visual: seeing things that are not there;
  • Being delusional, that is, believing things that are not true;
  • Being unable to think in a rational and organized way;
  • Having difficulty paying attention and concentrating (Fig. 1);
  • Having difficulty remembering things;
  • Having unusual emotions (being happy when everyone is sad) or no emotions at all;
  • Having few or no friends;
  • Having weird eating habits (that is, eating certain types of foods or eating while in a specific situation);
  • Doing poorly in school;
  • Being unable to take care of his or herself.

Figure 1. Difficulty paying attention

The causes of schizophrenia are not known. It is believed that genetics (see ECI Glossary) and imbalances in certain brain neuro-transmitters (see full Glossary)  may be some of the causes.

Children with schizophrenia need help from a licensed psychotherapist with experience working with children who have schizophrenia. Psycho-therapy could be intensive and could include the entire family. Some children with schizophrenia may also be placed on medication, to restore balance to certain brain neuro-transmitters.

In school, some children with schizophrenia are placed in an Individual Education Plan (IEP) (see full Glossary). So, with the help of the school counselor and special educator, the regular education teacher can:

  • Make sure the child feels safe and secure in the classroom;
  • Give him or her extra time for in-class and homework assignments;
  • Provide him or her with graphic organizers and outlines  to make it easier for them to pay attention to  lessons;
  • Provide information more than once, and in more through more than one way to help the child will remember what he or she is being taught;
  • Be understanding when the child experiences a hallucination or delusion in the classroom;
  • Make sure the child and his or her classmates are safe if the child experiences a hallucination.

Schizophrenia is a lifelong condition. There is no cure. But many individuals with schizophrenia grow up to lead happy and healthy lives. The earlier therapy starts, and the more understanding the child’s environment is, the more likely he or she is to grow up to be a happy adult.

For more information about childhood schizophrenia, please visit the birth to six section of this course.

see References

October 20, 2012   No Comments