Early Childhood Intervention: Module Two – Special Needs & Conditions

Category — 2.9 Children with Other Types of Mental Illness

Children with Other Types of Mental Illness


Conduct Disorder (see full Glossary) is one of the types of mental health illnesses that may be easily missed because of a child’s difficult behaviour. Children with conduct disorder may have other challenges, including learning disabilities and attention deficit/hyperactive disorders.

Common behaviors or responses in children with conduct disorder include the following:

  • Stealing;
  • Consistent lying;
  • Setting fires;
  • Not attending school;
  • Breaking rules (at school and at home, in their community);
  • Breaking the law (adolescents, adults);
  • Destroying others’ property;
  • Being cruel to animals, other children and adults;
  • Forcing sexual activity on others (for example, being intrusive (see full Glossary) with other children);
  • Use of weapon(s) or using objects as weapons, including knives, sticks, bats and others.

Conduct disorders require treatment and intervention for children to overcome them. Psychotherapy (see full Glossary) is the recommended treatment. The aim of treatment is to begin to get the child to understand the effect their behaviors and actions have on others.

Oppositional Defiant Disorder or ODD:

Children with Oppositional Defiant Disorder (see full Glossary) usually show negative, hostile and defiant behaviors. Children with ODD, however, do not engage in physical aggression. To determine if a child is going through a phase of defiance or may have this disorder, it helps compare his or her behaviors to those of other children in the same age range.

These are some of the common traits for children with ODD:

  • Losing temper;
  • Arguing with authority figures (parents, teachers); adolescents/adults: also with boss/supervisor while at work;
  • Refusing to follow rules or requests;
  • Annoying people intentionally;
  • Touchy or easily annoyed by others;
  • Blaming others for his or her mistakes or misbehaviors;
  • Angry or resentful;
  • Spiteful or vindictive.

Intervention Options1

  • Therapy;
  • Special types of training to help build positive family interactions;

Sometimes medications are used to treat related mental health conditions.

Eating Disorder

Children with eating disorders may over-eat or under-eat, however, their feeding and nutrition needs are not being met. Eating disorders involve intense emotions and attitudes, as well as unusual behaviors associated with weight and/or food.

Elimination Disorders

Enuresis (or bed wetting), and encopresis (or passage of stools) (see full Glossary) are two disorders affecting behavior related to using the bathroom.

Enuresis: This is a medical condition where the child pees (urinating) during the night, while asleep. It is called enuresis only when children are older than six years old. Children may have small bladders. The normal capacity for children is 1 or more ounces per year of age.

Emotional problems do not cause enuresis; but they can make this condition worse than it is.


This is a condition in which a child 4 years old or older, accidentally or on purpose passes feces into inappropriate places (clothing, the floor). This behavior is not caused by medication or a medical condition; however, sometimes children with encopresis become constipated.

Intervention Options

  • For enuresis, the parent and physician need to measure the child’s bladder (take three measures of urine or pee for a day; the largest one equals the amount the bladder can hold). Parents and professionals may help the child by helping them become aware of their condition. Usually this condition is overcome after 10 years old.
  • For encopresis, professional help is needed to find out if there is a physical cause to the problem, or physiological encopresis, or if there is an emotional cause2.

Intervention options include (a) psychotherapy, (see full Glossary) (b) medical treatment, (c) behavioral therapy, and (d) a combination of medical and behavioral treatments.


This disorder involves distorted perceptions and thoughts.

Children with schizophrenia may show these symptoms:

  • Do not show feelings (for example, they appear apathetic);
  • Do not laugh or cry (for example, they are emotionally unresponsive);
  • Use very few words, or limited speech;
  • Do not express clear thoughts, or show confused thinking;
  • May suffer from hallucinations and delusions;
  • Show very unusual behaviors and inappropriate emotional reactions to others, for example screaming when hearing music or other sounds.

Intervention Options

Specific interventions for any disorders should be determined by a child and youth mental health team, a medical physician or psychiatric team based on3:

  • The child’s age, overall health, and medical history;
  • How severe  the child’s symptoms are;
  • How the child copes with certain medications, procedures, or therapies;
  • How the child’s condition is progressing;
  • Parents’ or caregivers’ opinions or preferences for one or more of these options:
Parents play a vital supportive role in any treatment process.
1 Source: Mayo Clinic: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/oppositional-defiant-disorder/DS00630
2 Source: Ferguson, T. (1979). Diagnosis and treatment of encopresis: A review of the literature.  26(1), 24-34.
3 Source: http://www.nmha.org/index.cfm?objectid=C7DF980C-1372-4D20-C8BA1DC89DBEAD32
4  Source: Facts for families from Kidshealth: http://www.aacap.org/aacap/Families_and_Youth/Facts_for_Families/Home.aspx 
5 Source: http://kidshealth.org/parent/emotions/behavior/OCD.html and http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1182258-overview

January 15, 2011   No Comments