Post–Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

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This fact sheet was developed by our partners at the Minnesota Department of Human Services, Children's Mental Health Division, for use in determining eligibility for early intervention services only.
February, 2013


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Condition Description

Post–Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a formal mental health diagnosis given to an infant or toddler by a licensed mental health professional using the Diagnostic Classification of Mental Health and Developmental Disorders of Infancy and Early Childhood: Revised Edition (DC:0-3R). The diagnosis requires that the young child has been exposed to a traumatic event (an event that either causes serious physical or psychological injury or threatens serious injury to the child or another person). Symptoms of the disorder include: the child demonstrates re-experiencing of the traumatic event(s), the child experiences developmental concerns after the occurrence of the traumatic event, the child exhibits increased arousal after the event. At the time of diagnosis, these symptoms must have been present for at least one month.1

Impact on Learning and Development

If untreated, young children with PTSD may experience delays in development and demonstrate difficulties in their relationships with others. They may also demonstrate difficulties in later school achievement and develop behaviors that require juvenile corrections interventions.2,3

Treatment Options

While evidence based mental health treatments are few in number for children under the age of five, the leading evidence based treatment for PTSD includes Trauma Informed–Child Parent Psychotherapy.4 Additionally, as with all interventions targeted toward young children, consistent and frequent communication across all of the systems working with the child (the child’s primary care givers, child care providers, primary health care providers, mental health providers, etc.), is essential for optimal success in treatment.5

References

1 Zero to Three (2005). Diagnostic Classification of Mental Health and Developmental Disorders of Infancy and Early Childhood: Revised Edition. Washington: ZERO TO THREE Press.

2 Zigler, E., Taussig, C., & Black, K. (1992). Early childhood intervention: A promising preventative for juvenile delinquency. American Psychologist, 47(8), 997-1006.

3 President’s New Freedom Commission on Mental Health. (2003). Goal 4: Early mental health screening, assessment and referral to services are common practice. Achieving the Promise: Transforming Mental Health Care in America. 57-66.

4 The National Child Traumatic Stress Network (2013). CPP: Child-Parent Psychotherapy [On-line]. Available: http://www.nctsnet.org/sites/default/files/assets/pdfs/cpp_general.pdf (PDF: 236 KB/6 pages)

5 Parlakian, P. and Seibel, N.L. (2002). Building Strong Foundations, Practical Guidance for Promoting the Social-Emotional Development of Infants and Toddlers. Washington: ZERO TO THREE Press.

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