Wide range of needs go undetected

Services are failing children and adolescents
with learning difficulties who suffer from additional psychological
or behavioural problems, leading child psychiatrists have

Despite substantial evidence to suggest a much
higher prevalence of mental health and behavioural problems among
young people with learning difficulties, services remain almost
non-existent, child psychiatrists told delegates at a Community
Care-sponsored conference in London last week.

Dental, visual, and speech problems in
children and adolescents with learning difficulties were also often
overlooked, they added.

“It is no longer tenable for people to be
unaware of the psychiatric, psychological, and behavioural needs of
people with learning difficulties,” said Jeremy Turk, clinical team
leader of St Georges’ Child Mental Health Learning Disability

He stressed the importance of breaking down
the “artificial” dichotomy between child mental health and other
children’s services, calling for wider multi-disciplinary teams
which would include developmental psychiatrists, clinical
psychologists, clinical nurse specialists, speech and language
therapists, psychiatric social workers, occupational therapists,
and geneticists.

Consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist
Sarah Bernard said there were “areas of the country where there
were absolutely no children and adolescents’ mental health services
at all”.

Bernard said training programmes needed to
change to ensure that anybody studying child and adolescent
psychiatry should also have to train in learning difficulties, and
anybody training in learning difficulties should have some
experience of child and adolescent psychiatry.

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