Trying to find psychiatric help under school age

At a loss

New Member
I have called and emailed at least 50 Psychiatrist and or treatment centers for a child whom I have guardianship of. We have been told play therapy is really all they can do for him now. He is violent and destructive at 4. every where we call has a 6 month waiting list ect. I am on all the lists and I have been for a few months. When I do get through to an actual provider they dont see children this young. Anyone else having this issue? The child is a brain cancer survivor and his father is incarcerated long term and his mom is a homeless drug offender. He has been with us for almost 2 1/2 years. We have helped him relearn to eat drink walk and talk post his original tumor resection. We took him out of town to a cancer hospital for 6 weeks for radiation, He has always been aggressive but he is getting more and more so. They want to put him inpatient. How would anyone leave a four year old with health and abandonment issues at an inpatient treatment facility? He has been in so many hospitals and he has never been in one alone. Help if you have any input on how to expedite treatment. Thanks!


Roll With It
I am so very sorry that you are having to deal with all of this, and even more sorry that your poor little guy has had to deal with all of this family trauma and brain cancer on top of it all. I think he is blessed to have you in his life and to have you following your instincts. Please ALWAYS follow your instincts as you search for help for him. It certainly seems really stupid to yank him away from his family to treat his abandonment issues and attachment issues. Wouldn't that make it worse rather than better? Or is that too much common sense for the psychiatric community? Sorry, that sarcasm isn't helpful but really, how silly are these people?

One of the problems is that he is so very young. At his age, no matter how smart he is, he just isn't developed enough for most forms of psychotherapy and psychiatry to help him. Talk therapy just isn't going to do it because his little brain isn't mature enough to process everything and put it into words. But he DOES need help.

Has he ever seen a neuropsychologist to help figure out what is going on? This is a psychologist with special training in the brain and they can often do extra testing to help pinpoint the cause of the problems. Often this testing takes 10-12 hours over several sessions. Given your son's age, he likely isn't ready or old enough for most of the tests, but some might be able to be given. Even if they are not, a neuropsychologist might be able to help. Good ones are often booked out for months, so ask about the cancellation list.

Has he been seen and evaluated by a private occupational therapist (Occupational Therapist (OT)) for sensory issues? MANY of our difficult children have brains that have trouble handling the sensory input they get from the world. They simply react differently to input from their senses. They either seek out or avoid certain types of sensory input. This is called Sensory Integration Disorder or Sensory Processing Disorder. Some doctors think it is part of the autism spectrum of disorders. All of my children, in fact most of my family going back generations, have sensory issues. Textures are a big deal for me. I cant cope with some textures, like those fancy high tech athletic shirts that are so popular, or mushrooms. Other textures I just can't get enough of, like soft plush fabric and really expensive cotton flannel. I know kids who are driven into flat out rages where they hurt other people over things like tags in shirts or liquid soap.

There are really great therapies to help kids, even kids as young as your difficult child, with sensory issues. I strongly recommend reading The Out of Sync Child by Kranowitz. It explains the problem in depth and it explains several therapies to help. One of these is to provide a sensory diet of the types of stimuli that the child needs to learn to self soothe. Another is called brushing therapy. Brushing involves using a soft brush in a set pattern over the child's body followed by gentle joint compressions. This helps the brain relearn how to handle input from the senses. It MUST be taught by an Occupational Therapist (OT) because if you do it in the wrong way, or on certain parts of the body, you can create MAJOR problems. Done in the correct way it has been show to actually help the brain create new pathways to learn to handle sensory input. This is done WITHOUT the use of any medications and generally the children find it enjoyable. You can't really say that for a LOT of the things we do as parents to help our kids grow up to be great people! Brushing therapy and other things can be done with young children, so your son's age should not be a problem.

I also highly recommend the book "The Out of Sync Child Has Fun" also by Kranowitz. In fact, if you can only buy one book, buy this one and get the other book from the library. This book is packed with activities that provide sensory input of different types to create the sensory diet that is so helpful and necessary. There are ways to make each activity as inexpensive as possible also. These activities ARE therapy but they are also incredibly FUN. My family wore out several copies of this book because we used it so much. Every kid in each neighborhood we lived in would come running if I had this book out. It helped us make a whole lot of really great memories at a time when my oldest child was incredibly difficult and violent with his sister and I. But to get to do activities from "The Book" he would chill out for a while, and it gave us some much needed family time.

Have you had him evaluated for autism? MANY interventions for autism are done on very young children. When it comes to autism, the younger the better is pretty much the idea when it comes to starting to get help. That would be a community of professionals and parents who had ideas and information on how to help very young children, far more than the psychiatric community would. At least in my opinion they would. Autism is NOT a psychiatric condition, it is a developmental disorder and generally a developmental pediatrician is the professional who would coordinate things. At least that is my understanding of it. My son was older when he was diagnosed with Asperger's, so we didn't really do interventions at your son's age. But the doctors who helped us certainly had waiting rooms full of very young children.

Even if your son doesn't have autism, the treatment for brain cancer has likely impacted how his brain will develop and the interventions for autism may help him. Some people may tell you that children with autism are all happy and smiling, and some very much are. But not all people with autism are happy. Some can be VERY violent, even/especially with people they love. It is a disorder of a differently wired brain that doesn't develop in the typical way, and that CAN lead to problems with anger and violence. So the autism community will NOT be unfamiliar with your son's behavior.

You also may want to look into attachment disorders. They are usually caused by neglect or trauma in the first 3 years of life. Children learn not to trust that adults will care for them and this causes major developmental problems. Last I knew, there were some great therapists specializing in this in Evergreen Colorado. Sadly, there are a lot of kids with attachment disorders and very few doctors who really have a clue what they are or how to treat them. Treatment is very specialized and at your son's age, separation from you would be a HUGE mistake if he has any sort of attachment disorder. When we were wondering if my oldest had a severe form of attachment disorder caused by waking up during an operation (yes, he woke up completely during an operation and the doctors HID this from us - my son was 22 months), I did a lot of research. I decided that if we truly thought he had this disorder, I would sell whatever I had to and I would take him to Evergreen for treatment. I was NOT going to trust that some doctor who went to a weekend seminar or two really understood what was going on. I don't know where you live or if this is an option for you, but it was what my husband and I decided. We did not end up going to Evergreen as our son clearly does not have this issue. He has issues, just not that one. SO it was not needed. This is just such a complex disorder and standard psychological treatment simply is NOT going to help, in fact it generally makes it worse.

Please, whatever the professionals tell you, ALWAYS follow your instincts. The doctors and therapist may be the experts in their fields of study, but YOU are the expert in your little boy. You spend every day with him while they spend a few minutes with him every week or month. You know him and if your instincts say that it is absolutely wrong to send him inpatient, then it is absolutely WRONG to send him inpatient. Even if 200 doctors all say to do it, if your instincts say not to, then don't do it. The times I made the worst mistakes with my kids are when I listened to some so called expert instead of my instincts. Thankfully I only did it a few times.

One tool that I think would help you greatly is the Parent Report. This is a report that you write about your son. It keeps ALL the information right at your fingertips and is a HUGE help during appointments. Moms who were on this site long before I came here created the report and it is a very powerful tool I don't know if my oldest child would have come through school if I had not had the PR. It helped HUGELY during meetings with teachers and it let me keep the school on its toes and doing what it was required to do. It also kept things straight with doctors. I didn't have tests repeated just to repeat them. I could prove to doctors that we had already done that test with this result, and we had already taken that medication with this result, and we did NOT need to do it again, so lets think about this other thing instead. With it all right there in front of them, the doctors couldn't say it hadn't been done or tried, so they didn't keep trying to reinvent the wheel.

If you follow the link in my signature, you will find the outline and description of the Parent Report.

Welcome to the community! This is a great place for ideas and help and venting and people who won't ever judge you. Please know that we truly understand that the suggestions given are not right for everyone and we do NOT expect you to take them. They are just ideas, and if they help, great. If not, we tried, no harm meant, no offense taken for ignoring the suggestions/ideas. We truly mean this. Even when people are like me and type a book!


Well-Known Member
I would suggest seeing a neuro psychologist as well. They should be able to diagnose what is and is not due to his head trauma. I agree the poor little man most likely also has attachment issues from lack of stabiliry in his earliest years. This can also caise failure to thrive.

You are a very brave and good person to love this very needy little boy. Bless you.


Active Member
Well if you can't get help from a professional right now, then I would recommend the "Internet do-it-yourself" method! That is just ask for ideas here and elsewhere. Maybe we can come up with some ideas which will help the situation until you can get professional help?

I have some ideas and one is a "Time In". This is the opposite of a "Time Out". Instead of the boy spending time in his room alone, make him be right next to you for a period of time. He must follow you around or you follow him around or sit next to him.

Another thing which I found REALLY helpful was a book on ODD (Oppositional Defiant Disorder). And that book said to give positive reinforcement rather than negative. Simply look for him to be doing something good, then reward him.

For ADHD, removing sugar from the diet can work wonders. Or the opposite is giving them sugar, then they turn into tornadoes! So water instead of soda pop, etc.

And ask the local school counselors if there are parenting classes in your area. These are wonderful because you will meet other parents who have gone through similar situations. And they will have excellent suggestions.
Last edited:


Well-Known Member
Hi and welcome, Aal,

Have you tried having your son's medical doctor make the appointment instead of you doing it yourself? Doctors will usually take other doctor's calls more seriously than calls from patients/parents.

I am currently dealing with my adult daughter's medical needs, and when I called the Neurologist, I got an appointment for May. Then I called her family doctor, they called the Neurologist and got her an appointment less than two weeks from the day of the call. It makes a big difference.

Stay with us. This is a great community of people who have dealt with these things and could be a good source of support.



Active Member
I was going to suggest you have his primary doctor or the surgeon make calls on your behalf. It really does make a difference.