Parenting Q & A

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By Gregory Ramey, PhD, child psychologist at Dayton Children's and Dayton Daily News columnist

Edition: March 25, 2007 | Topic: Archive


I'm wondering if my daughter may be autistic. She is 20 months old and doesn't seem to be developing as quickly as her siblings. Sometimes she seems like a totally normal child. However, at other times she behaves very inappropriately and just doesn't relate well to others or say many words.


Autism is developmental disorder that exists from birth, and typically can be diagnosed at around your daughter's age. The key characteristics of autism for a toddler include a significant delay in language, unusual stereotypic behavior and significant problems with social interactions.

Early identification is key to effective treatment. Speak with your family doctor, and obtain a referral to a developmental pediatrician. A complete evaluation will typically involve administering a variety of developmental tests, observation of your child, and obtaining a complete medical history.

Please don't delay. Youngsters with developmental problems can be helped significantly by early intervention programs.


My 12-year-old son is starting to act like a preteen. He complains every night about his "early bedtime," arguing that his friends stay up later to watch TV, send instant messages or play video games.

We think he needs about 10 hours of sleep per night, and see a dramatic change in his behavior when he doesn't get that much rest. We want to be respectful of his age and give him more choices, but are unsure if he is mature enough to make the right decision. Any suggestions?


Many teenagers go through high school sleep deprived, with significant impact on their physical health and psychological well-being. Ten hours of sleep a night seems about right for a child his age, particularly since you do notice a change if he gets less.

Don't compromise on this issue. However, rather than letting this be the beginning of numerous tension points between you, educate your son on why he needs so much sleep. Have him research various internet articles from sleep disorder programs that point out the effects of a lack of sleep.

There's lots of other areas in his life where your preteen can exert appropriate decision making, but choosing less sleep is not an area for discussion or compromise.


I'm considering adopting a 6-year-old girl but I have many concerns. She came from a very neglectful and abusive environment and has been in a treatment home for two years. Our family is very committed to providing a good home for this child, but I wonder if a 6-year-old ever recovers from such an early history of severe trauma. Do these kids ever go on to lead a normal life?


Early childhood trauma does not necessarily result in a troubled life of chronic behavior and emotional problems. Professional treatment combined with a caring, loving, and structured home can have a big impact on the lives of these children. Even so, recognize that the adoption of a child with such a history does place her statistically at a greater risk for a number of problems.

Do your homework. Find out as much as you can about this child's early history. Talk with the professionals who have treated this child over the past few years. The best indication of how well this youngster will do in the future is what progress she has made in the treatment home.

Dr. Ramey Gregory Ramey, PhD, is a child psychologist and vice president for outpatient services at The Children's Medical Center of Dayton. For more of his columns, visit and join Dr. Ramey on facebook at

©2010 The Children's Medical Center of Dayton. Columns may be reproduced with the permission of Dayton Children's.


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