Mental health of children is seminars’ focus - East Valley Tribune: Phoenix & The Valley Of The Sun

Mental health of children is seminars’ focus

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Posted: Sunday, August 20, 2006 7:19 am | Updated: 3:44 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

An organization dedicated to the mental health of children will hold a symposium in Scottsdale this week for professionals who work in family services.

The seminars, called “From Risk to Resiliency: Young Children and Their Earliest Relationships,” will be Wednesday through Friday at the Scottsdale Hilton Resort and Villas.

The event is being hosted by the Infant Toddler Mental Health Coalition of Arizona, a group that advocates for child welfare and contributes to policy-making on the subject.

One of the keynote speakers during the symposium will focus on trauma among infants, based on studies conducted with families after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans.

“You used to be able not to diagnose it, because all of the criteria required a person suspected of trauma to be able to talk about it,” said Allison Steier, chairwoman of this year’s event.

Since then, the criteria have changed and researchers now are able to diagnose post-traumatic stress disorder in babies, and depression in children as young as 4 months.

“Basically infants have much greater capacities than people typically think of them having,” said Steier, who holds a doctorate in clinical psychology.

If infants fail to form strong attachments to someone who can comfort them and make them feel loved, it negatively affects their development, Steier said.

“It’s not the end of everything,” she said. “But it’s the beginning of everything.”

Meeting planner Debbie Elder said most of the attendees — social workers, physicians and psychologists — work for government agencies.

The idea is for these professionals to learn new ways to serve infants and toddlers and incorporate the information into state services.

Steier said one of the most important state programs to benefit from additional training is the state’s child welfare system.

There is room for improvement among those who care for children on behalf of the state, Steier said.

“Sometimes it’s a hard sell, because nobody likes to really think about babies in distress,” she said.

For information and online registration, visit www.itmhca.org/institute.

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