My daughter, who is 12 years old, has an intellectual disability and a mental illness. She has an overall diagnosis of fetal alcohol syndrome, but under this umbrella falls both intellectual disability and mental health issues.
Unfortunately, many people, including professionals, do not understand the combination of these two disabilities.
It is very important to find a psychiatrist who understands that it is possible to have these disabilities together. That may not be an easy task, but it is necessary. My daughter saw three different doctors before we found one who understood her dual diagnoses and needs. Her two diagnoses cause the symptoms to look different and they can be misunderstood.
Even though my daughter’s IQ is low she still has the symptoms of Bipolar. She becomes manic and cannot sleep, her anger issues and rage increase, she cannot focus, and her impulses become impossible to control. These are common symptoms exhibited by those with a diagnosis of Bipolar.
Her current doctor does understand these diagnoses can be co-occurring and is able to look past the delays and see her symptoms. For my daughter to have the quality of life that she deserves, her mental illness must be controlled. We are fortunate to have a doctor who sees and treats her whole person.
I have spent a lot of time educating people on this topic. My recommendation to parents whose child has a dual diagnosis of IDD and a mental illness is to find a doctor who understands and can treat both.
You can learn more on this website under Mental Health for Children with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.
In addition, if your child’s current doctor is not treating your child’s dual disabilities, keep looking until you find one who is knowledgeable about your child and their needs.
“What’s wrong with your child?” are the hardest words to hear. Finding a diagnosis for your child is one step in the right direction. Navigating the various challenges your child will face can be overwhelming. Keep showing up and facing the challenges.