It is problematic trying to diagnose borderline personality disorder (BPD) in children as their personalities are still developing. However, some children exhibit symptoms which seem to mimic the symptoms of BPD.
Ideally, BPD would be prevented before it fully develops so identifying symptoms which suggest BPD may develop later on in an individual’s life as early as possible is clearly desirable in order to start appropriate therapy before the problem becomes out of hand.
Early treatment is particularly valuable as the young child’s brain is at its most ‘plastic’ which means, by using the appropriate therapies, its physical development can be much more easily beneficially altered than would be the case in adulthood.
Also, the earlier therapy is given, the less time undesirable symptoms have to ‘take root’ and become ingrained into the young person’s behavioural patterns.
One therapy that may be used for therapeutic purposes in connection with the above is known as ‘floor time therapy‘ (also referred to as the Developmental – Individual difference – Realtionship-based Model or DIR) and was originally developed by Greenspan (1989).
Although the therapy was originally developed in order to treat children with autism, it can be used to treat a variety of childhood psychological conditions, including the treatment childhood symptoms similar to those of BPD such as dramatic shifts in mood and difficulty controlling impulses. (However, further research is needed to establish, more accurately, this therapy’s effectiveness).
It is called floor time therapy for the very simple reason that it involves the parent getting on the floor with the child and playing (in a specialized way taught by the therapist) with him/her.
Therapists trained in this type of therapy include some specialized psychologists and occupational therapists.
Finally, it should be noted that many children who might benefit from such therapies miss out as they are regarded as ‘difficult’, ‘troublesome’, ‘over-sensitive’ etc when, in fact, there may be a strong biological component underlying their behaviour over which the child has no control ; blaming such a child then severely compounds the problem.
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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).
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