Creating Your Child’s “Thinks, Says & Does” Chart Opens Up Dialogue For Better Results
By Julie A. Fast
Best selling author and award winning columnist, Julie Fast is known as a bipolar specialist who coaches adults, partners and families. For the past fifteen years Julie has helped parents recognize and talk about their children’s symptoms and navigate the healthcare system.
Sticking to what a child thinks, says and does will make a positive difference when reporting symptoms to a health care professional.
Create a Think, Says and Does Chart:
Max is a 8 year old boy with a kind nature and sweet temperament. He’s a regular kid who rarely complains for long and is good at responding to requests from his parents. For the past six months, his moods and behaviors have changed. His parents are taking him to a child psychologist for an evaluation.
Here is an example of what Max’s parents will NOT say to the psychologist:
We don’t know what is wrong with our son. Normally he is so sweet. These days he’s so angry and sometimes mean! Is this just a boy thing? He’s getting in trouble at school. He has a two year old sister he usually adores. Max was really upset before and during school the other day. He came home sad and worn out and told me he was tired.
If Max’s parents talk about feelings and give brief descriptions of what is happening, this creates an emotional conversation that has to be decoded by the person trying to help Max. It makes much more sense to stick to the facts at first. Emotions can come later.
Here is the list Max’s parents created for the initial child psychologist visit. You can use this list as a template for your child’s next health care visit.
Create a Think, Says, Does List for the Health Care Professional:
What Max says:
“I don’t want to go to school.”
“My stomach hurts.”
“My eyes are tired.”
“This breakfast doesn’t taste good.”
“The kids on the bus make fun of me.”
What Max thinks:
Max got in trouble at school for not letting the kids use the computer. We asked, “Max, what was happening in your brain when the kids wanted to use the computer and you didn’t want to get off?”
“It was my computer. They were trying to take it from me.”
“They stood too close to me and touched me and I was upset and wanted to just stay on the computer.”
Max’s behavior on a really rough day:
Kicked his sister’s chair at breakfast and even when mom said he had to stop, he kept going.
Dragged his book bag instead of putting it on his back.
Walked VERY slowly to the bus.
Would not let classmates take their turn on the computer.
Told his teacher she was being mean.
Was slightly aggressive with his friends, such as swinging his book bag around.
Would not take no for an answer. Kept pestering to get what he wanted.
Said, “You’re not the boss of me!” when dad suggested he rest in his room.
Wanted to be on the computer all of the time.
Was not happy to see his dad.
Told mom she worked too much.
Ignored his sister.
Cried in frustration when his dad asked him to set the table.
Couldn’t pick out a book. He said, “You choose.”
Didn’t argue about wanting to stay up.
Turned away from me before the book was done and said, “That’s enough. I’m going to bed now.”
Here is what the parents added to the bottom of the list:
Please know that these are out of character behaviors for Max. This behaviors are lasting longer and he’s more and more unhappy. He has been upset every day. We’ve asked if anything happened at school. No one has seen any change in his experiences in school. They tell us the change is in Max. We know that nothing has happened at home. We certainly have our ups and downs, but our home is usually calm and the same as it has been since he was a baby. Max has not been in the company of any strangers and is well cared for. We are seeing the patterns that something isn’t right. We need help. We look forward to your opinion and thank you for you help in advance.
Final note from Julie:
When you chart what your child thinks, says and does, you’re creating a symptom list that heath care professionals can use to help find a correct diagnosis if needed, as well as help you find a plan to get your beloved child healthy, happy and stable for the future.
Julie A. Fast is the author of Loving Someone with Bipolar Disorder, Take Charge of Bipolar Disorder, Get It Done When You’re Depressed, and The Health Cards Treatment System for Bipolar Disorder. She is a columnist and blogger for bp Magazine, and she won the Mental Health America journalism award for the best mental health column in the US. Julie was also the recipient of the Eli Lilly Reintegration Achievement Award for her work in bipolar disorder advocacy. Julie is a bipolar disorder expert for ShareCare, a site created by Dr. Oz and Oprah. Julie is CEU certified and regularly trains health care professionals, including psychiatric residents, social workers, therapists, and general practitioners, on bipolar disorder management skills. She was the original consultant for Claire Danes for the show Homeland and is on the mental health expert registry for People magazine. She works as a coach for parents and partners of people with bipolar disorder. Julie is currently writing a book for children called "Hortensia and the Magical Brain: Poems for Kids with Bipolar, Anxiety, Psychosis, and Depression." You can find more about her work at JulieFast.com and BipolarHappens.com.
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