How to spot mental health problems in children

How to spot mental health problems in children

It’s World Mental Health Day so we wanted to talk about mental health in children and how you can identify mental health issues in children with SEN.

It is important to promote good mental health in all children, but even more so in children with special educational needs (SEN). Children with SEN conditions have been identified as being vulnerable and are more likely to experience emotional distress, with a higher risk of developing mental health difficulties.

Up to 40% of people with learning disabilities are affected by mental health problems compared to 25% of people without.

It can be difficult to identify mental health problems in children with SEN, but the key is to recognise changes a child’s usual pattern of behaviour such as:

• withdrawal from their usual activities and interests
• increased anxiety
• repetitive or unusual behaviours
• disturbed sleeping patterns
• increased physical or verbal aggression
• less concern with personal hygiene
• changes in weight
• increased fidgeting or general restlessness

We know that children flourish emotionally in schools which have an explicit focus on building emotional health. But what are the factors that impact upon emotional health and wellbeing? How can schools develop a positive identity and culture which builds emotional resilience? How can individual practitioners strengthen their everyday practice to better support vulnerable children?

How to enhance the mental health and emotional wellbeing of primary children with SEN will help answer these questions, equipping you with all you need to strengthen and support the emotional health and wellbeing of primary school children.

This comprehensive resource provides a framework to help educational practitioners develop effective emotional support for their pupils based upon national policy and best-practice recommendations. It will help SENCOs and teachers develop their own everyday practice as well as guide whole-school approaches. It is also valuable for those commissioning and developing services to meet changing need.

This book will:

  • help practitioners understand key childhood developmental milestones and the impact of SEN
    • build practitioners’ knowledge of mental health difficulties commonly seen in primary-aged children
    • identify risk and protective factors which impact upon emotional health and wellbeing
    • provide a framework for developing and establishing effective whole-school provision to enhance the emotional and mental health of all children
    • establish practitioners’ skills in identifying ‘at risk’ children and suggest ways to systematically assess individual need
    • help guide the planning, delivery and review of targeted interventions
    • help practitioners strengthen and improve collaborative working relationships with parents and allied professional colleagues from other services
    • help practitioners develop a framework for the training of staff to help build their knowledge, confidence and skills.

Dr Melanie Forster is a dual-qualified consultant clinical psychologist and teacher. She has extensive experience working within Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and as a local authority SEN consultant, and frequently delivers training to specialist practitioners regarding a diverse range of SEN needs.

Also available in this series is How to enhance the mental health and emotional wellbeing of secondary children with SEN