What is Child Neuropsychiatry (NPI)?

Child Neuropsychiatry

Child Neuropsychiatry (NPI) carries out prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation activities for child and adolescent neurological, neuropsychological, psychological, and psychiatric disorders.

The child neuropsychiatrist is a specialized doctor who deals with psychiatric and neurological problems in childhood and adolescence. A pediatric neuropsychiatry clinic coordinated by Dr. Antonella Ciriaco is active at the outpatient clinic of Maria Luigia Hospital. In this short interview, we learn more about child neuropsychiatry as a branch of medicine and the professional who deals with it: the child neuropsychiatrist.

Childhood neuropsychiatry

Child Neuropsychiatry is a branch of medicine and is considered a mixed discipline, in the sense that it is considered a bridging specialty between three different areas of medicine: pediatrics, neurology, and psychiatry. Pediatrics, as it is a discipline that deals with children and adolescents, neurology as it deals with pathologies involving the central and peripheral nervous system, and psychiatry as it deals with psychiatric and psychiatric problems specific to this period of life.

Even today, in Italy, infantile neurological competence and infantile psychiatric one are united in a single professional figure: the infantile neuropsychiatrist. In other countries this is no longer the case; for example, in England, there are two different figures. One specialty is dedicated to the study and treatment of childhood neurological diseases, while the other focuses on psychological and psychiatric problems in childhood.

The child neuropsychiatrist

To become a child neuropsychiatrist there is a long and perilous way to go. First of all, it is necessary to graduate in Medicine and Surgery and then to carry out a specific specialization in child neuropsychiatry (now the specialty lasts 4 years). Furthermore, once specialized, training must constantly continue …, in Italy, child neuropsychiatrists specialize further during their career and choose whether to deepen, through clinical practice, study, and research, the part of child neurology or that of child psychiatry.

There is also a further difference to underline. Childhood neuropsychiatrists are divided into territorial and hospital. In general, child neuropsychiatrists in the area tend to have a little more all-around training.

Hospital child neuropsychiatrists must always continue to maintain an overview of the child’s neuropsychic development but deal in a more specialized way with neurological or psychiatric pathologies.  Conversely, a child who is diagnosed with autism will more easily come to the attention of a child psychiatrist who works in a specialized autism center.

What does the child neuropsychiatrist do?

The scope of child neuropsychiatry is truly vast. And as a child neuropsychiatrist, I agree very much: our specialty is the only one that deals specifically with the physiological and pathological neuropsychic development of the child and adolescent during the entire training period.

The child neuropsychiatrist works very often in close contact with pediatricians of free choice but with different skills. The pediatrician deals with the general growth of the child, its correct development, and internal diseases, as child neuropsychiatrists we specialize in neurological and psychiatric problems.

When to take a child to the Child Neuropsychiatry

Many parents ask me when it is necessary to take their child for a specialist visit to the child neuropsychiatrist.

Negative emotional reactions to painful life events are normal even in childhood. For example, if a loved one dies and a child is sad, this reaction is normal and physiological. It generally does not require any specialist intervention. If, on the other hand, the emotion expressed by the child is intense (for example, he cries often), lasting, and affects the possibility of going to school or being with peers, it becomes an indicator of the need to request a consultation from a child neuropsychiatrist.

Child Neuropsychiatry in Parma

The approach to treatment in the child neuropsychiatry clinic that I coordinate at the Maria Luigia hospital in Monticelli Terme, Parma… requires important teamwork. The child neuropsychiatrist often collaborates with other mental health professionals such as the psychologist, the educator, the speech therapist, the psychiatric rehabilitation technician, and the nurse. The approach to treatment in child neuropsychiatry is a systemic, complex, and multi-professional approach.

The psychological health of a child depends above all on the relational contexts he experiences (family, school, sport, etc.) and for this reason, it is often taken care of by the entire family unit. Parents are involved in taking charge of understanding the discomfort and guiding any positive developments.

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Written by floreenathomas



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