How can parents tell when their child needs professional help?

An interview with Dr. Elina Durchman, Psychiatrist at Ryther.

How can parents tell when their child needs professional help?

There is no easy answer for that, but anytime a parent is concerned about their child, they should seek professional advice. When there is a behavior or mood change, parents should seek professional help. The most common symptoms are acting out in a school setting or daycare. Very young children who don’t know how to verbalize their feelings can be aggressive at daycare or preschool. This can be a warning sign that something is going on. Parents should check with their child’s teacher to see how their child is acting in the classroom and compare this to their home environment. There is often a difference between home life and school. Kids can be very calm and happy in the home environment, but very fearful at school.


Why might a child become anxious or defiant regarding school?

Children may become defiant at school because they don’t understand their teacher or what the teacher is saying, which is very difficult for children to deal with and also difficult to explain to their parents. Sometimes, a child has a learning disability that hasn’t been recognized or diagnosed, and it’s very difficult for the kids to explain that they have a learning disability. Parents often think the kids are just defiant and don’t do their homework, and in this situation school can become a stressor for the child. For example, we know that ADHD is a developmental problem that we can measure in the brain, and if it’s severe enough the child may need to be on medication. It seems unfair to require a kid with ADHD to struggle in school when a medication  exists that can help them improve their school experience.


What are the most common psychiatric issues that you address?

The most common struggles that kids have are with anxiety, depression and, of course, ADHD. I also work with some teens in the co-occurring program that addresses both mental health and substance abuse issues. There are other mood disorders to be evaluated. These include bi-polar disorder, or other disorders on the psychotic spectrum. There are also children who have stressors in the family because of parents separating and other home issues. These are often triggers for anxiety, mood disorders like depression and other psychiatric issues.

It is important to note that many people are predisposed to depression, anxiety or other mental conditions. When a traumatic event happens, this can trigger an episode of these pre-existing conditions. However, if children receive mental health treatment, they will often have the tools they need later in life to successfully deal with these events.


What are some common stressors among young children?

 A stressor might be that kids don’t know how to express their unhappiness or that they want something, or don’t like something. So the most common way the kids show these feelings is to act out, by having a temper tantrum or something similar. I often spend time explaining these behaviors to the parents. The parents sometimes don’t understand why the kids are acting this way, and kids are unable to explain to their parents in any other way except by acting out. A child might get diagnosed with something like Oppositional Defiance Disorder because they don’t want to go to school or to soccer practice. So they throw a huge tantrum, but often the tantrum isn’t about soccer practice at all but rather some source of anxiety or fear related to that particular activity. These conditions cause anxiety and fear for the kids. Think of a young child being fearful and not knowing how to explain to their parents that they don’t want to go to a certain place. Often their only response is to fight back.

A lot of people (parents) don’t recognize these behaviors or know where these behaviors come from, and they are often times very grateful and happy when the situation is explained to them.

If you have concerns or questions, you may call Ryther at 206.517.0234 or visit our website for information or to make an appointment with one of Ryther’s psychiatrists.

Dr. Elina Durchman

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What do kids learn and where do they learn it?

There are a great many “experts” who believe that facility based care is either unnecessary or bad. Most of them formed their opinions on this subject on the basis of what might have been going on 20 years ago when “residential” care may have been used excessively by the child welfare. Such people seem to me to be intellectually lazy in that they have clearly not taken the time to examine the population the situation on the ground today where there are just a fraction of the facility based beds available ‘in the old days’. One of the justifications such people use to avoid doing any real thinking is that children cannot learn how to live in a family at a group home. They say this despite the fact that there is research that suggests that children coming out of group homes have more “permanency success than those coming out of foster care. I believe that this is so because in our facility we focus a lot of attention on teaching the children how to more successfully and positively relate to others. When you have a difficult child in a foster home, too often the foster parent has more than enough on their plates to do more than just manage the difficult situations that arise. Given the lack of support most foster parents get from the system it is no wonder that this might be so.
I put this kind of criticism of facility based care in the same category of lazy thinking that lead to a universal condemnation of all mental hospitals. So how are chronically mentally ill people better off living under viaducts and being regularly victimized by the climate and criminals?

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A Great Lady

We were informed this week of the passing of Barbara Kilborn, a long time and faithful member of the Ryther League. Barbara was a special friend to the children of Ryther and all who had the pleasure of knowing her. She had that rare combination of qualities like dignity with warmth, humor and kindness.
She was quiet and unassuming yet clearly a competently determined hard worker who could encourage and support others. Our sympathies go out to Barbara’s family. We will all miss her dearly.

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Walmart Associates Recognize Ryther

Each year, the nearly 18,000 Walmart associates in Washington state are asked to vote on which local non-profit organization should receive the Associate Choice grant.  It’s part of a process that takes place over seven weeks, throughout the country, where thousands of associates weigh in online on which organization in their state most deserves Walmart’s support.

This year, Walmart’s Associate Choice program awarded a total of $7 million in grants to organizations across the country, including $100,000 to Ryther in Washington State.

Part of Walmart’s mission is to give back in the communities where we operate.  As Walmart’s director of public affairs and government relations for Washington and Oregon, I have the privilege of working with many fantastic Northwest non-profits—organizations that all do extraordinary work.  Ryther stands out, not only because of the amazing work that takes place there every day, but because of how well its mission aligns with Walmart’s own giving priorities.

In all of our giving efforts, we strive to address the unmet needs of underserved populations by supporting organizations that give individuals access to a better life.  This is exactly what Ryther does for so many children and families who have nowhere else to turn.

Ryther’s mission and the work conducted by its entire staff, volunteers and those in the Ryther League, reflect each of the areas where we focus our charitable giving—education, workforce development and economic opportunity, environmental sustainability, and health and wellness.  With the most recent Associate Choice grant, Walmart has provide a totally of $185,000 in grants to Ryther since 2008.

Walmart, Ryther, Jennifer Spall, luncheon

Walmart Associates receive the Mother Ryther Home Award, being accepted by Jennifer Spall.


I want to express my gratitude for Ryther’s recognition of our company with the Mother Ryther Home Award.  It was an honor to accept the award on behalf of Walmart and our foundation at the recent fundraising luncheon.  We’re grateful to be able to play part in helping carry on Mother Ryther’s tremendous legacy of helping children in need.

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