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Children often go through odd phases during their development, including telling elaborate stories about things that they see or hear. Sometimes these stories can be quite worrying for parents and may make them wonder if their child may have developed paediatric schizophrenia. Here are some things to consider when looking at your child's condition.
Is there a family history of schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia has a strong heritability, especially for paediatric or childhood-onset schizophrenia, which presents before a child is 12 years old. But paediatric schizophrenia is quite rare and only affects about 1 in 40,000 children. Most patients with schizophrenia are diagnosed in their late teens to their early twenties (known as adult-onset), and the rate of adults with schizophrenia is 1 in 100 adults. If there is not a history of schizophrenia, it's less likely that the child actually has schizophrenia. But it can still be worth getting them assessed, especially if their behaviour is concerning and distressing to friends and family or affecting their ability to succeed in school or social relationships.
Does the child have other symptoms of schizophrenia?
Schizophrenia has a range of other symptoms beyond aural and visual hallucinations, including diminished emotional responses and repetitive behaviours such as rocking. There are often delays in developing gross motor skills such as walking and crawling, as well as delayed speech and language development. Speech, once developed, is often fast although with a flat inflection. Additionally, there is often a lack of concern for bodily hygiene, although again this can be hard to determine if your child is avoiding a bath for normal child development reasons or due to underlying mental health issues.
Psychologists have a well-developed checklist and use medical histories as well as structured interviews with the child and parents of carers to develop a true perspective of the child's mental state. Early treatment including behavioural therapies and medications can improve the overall outcomes for children, so early assessments can be a good way to help your child. In many cases, parents are also relieved to find a label for the issues their child is displaying so that they can start to work towards solutions.
Descriptions of scary voices and hallucinations can also indicate a range of other issues, so it can be a worth getting your child assessed if you are worried about their mental health. A psychologist can be a great resource in helping to assess if your child does have a mental health issue and working with you to help develop appropriate ways of treating the issue.