When Worries Are Too Big
I am an Early Childhood Special Education Teacher working with a 2-year-old with significant anxiety. Her mother would like to get help for her, but the providers she’s contacted don't work with children under three. How do I help her find mental health providers in the metro area for a child under three?
Thanks so much for reaching out on behalf of this family.
The Minnesota Department of Human Services, Division of Children’s Mental Health has been building awareness of the importance of early childhood mental health, and developing a statewide cadre of mental health practitioners who will work with young children and their families. Many Twin Cities mental health providers now provide this service. You can contact Catherine Wright, Early Childhood Mental Health Coordinator, MN DHS, at email@example.com for referrals.
For readers outside of Minnesota, check with your state’s agency in charge of children’s mental health services, universities with graduate programs in early childhood mental health, or local mental health organizations. Several states like Michigan, Massachusetts, California, Florida, Colorado and Minnesota have significantly expanded efforts to offer mental health services to our youngest and most vulnerable children.
You may be wondering why a two-year old would need mental health services. In training, I usually suggest using three simple questions:
- Is the infant or toddler and his/her caregivers having difficulty forming and maintaining relationships?
- Does the baby express a full-range of emotions or spend most of her day displaying neutral, sad or worried expressions?
- Is she able to engage in exploration ad learning with delight and interest?
If the answer is no to any of these three questions, the parent can fill out a screening measure on social emotional development (I recommend Ages and Stages Social/Emotional) and/or contact a specialist in early childhood social emotional development. Prompt assessment and diagnosis allow the practitioners to develop a plan to alleviate the symptoms, and redirect the child and family back to the path of typical development.