Research in Developmental Disabilities
A mental health clinic was developed for toddlers with developmental disabilities and significant behavior problems from families living in poverty. The clinic was a collaborative effort between a community-based Birth-to-Three agency and a university. The purpose of this clinic was threefold: to provide direct mental health services for these young children, to train graduate students to work with this population, and to begin to contribute to the limited research available in this area. This paper describes the clinical intake procedures and outcomes for the 81 children served by the clinic over a 2-year period. Referral concerns included tantrums, aggression, oppositional behaviors, hyperactivity, and self-injury. The children came from a diverse group of families living in poverty; single mothers with less than a high school education headed most of the households. The clinical intake included direct observations of parent–child interactions, child behavior assessments, and parental interviews and self-report measures. For the present sample, 77% of the children met the criteria for a developmental disability and nearly 70% also met the criteria for a psychiatric disorder. The most common diagnosis was oppositional defiant disorder. Discussion regarding the challenges inherent in working with families of toddlers with developmental delays and psychiatric disorders living in low-income circumstances is included.