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STOCKTON — Did you know hyperthyroidism can mask itself as anxiety? And just the opposite, that hypothyroidism can appear as depression?
Shontinese Huey, Psy.D, does. She’s also points out that attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can mimic such things as anxiety and depression (among other things), and she’s working to help her patients and their parents overcome these maladies.
Huey’s practice, Lighthouse Psychological Services … A Beacon of Light, has only been open in Stockton since January. But Huey has been in the field for over 20 years.
“Even as a youngster, I’ve always been drawn to children,” Huey said. “When my dad had a church in the Bay Area, I, at 10, was teaching primary vacation bible school to 5-year-olds. So, I’ve always worked with children and wanted to see them excel.”
Though her practice is small — currently she only sees about 16 patients — Huey is diligently growing her business, working with area pediatricians and Health Plan of San Joaquin to see children who might otherwise slip through the cracks.
“Sometimes the parents just don’t have the skills to deal with their children,” Huey said. “So, they run into parenting issues, and it’s coming out, of course, on the child in a different way, where it’s behavioral issues we’re addressing.”
Depending on the issue being addressed, Huey will employ different techniques like behavior modification where a child’s tolerance and instruction-following abilities are tested.
“I’m assessing the child in (my office) to see what’s working, and then pull the parents in,” Huey said. “Sometimes I have the parents read books or give them homework to have them do things at home with the child.”
This is something many parents may not be accustomed to, especially if they’ve already had a child with an even temperament.
“They usually express frustration because they’re, of course, basing their experience with the older child with the younger one, and they can’t understand why there’s a difference,” Huey said. “We talk about temperament and why there’s a difference. We talk about the different characteristics we all have as individuals, and helping the parents see the child as an individual.”
Then, Huey said, they begin working on what their strengths are, both the child and the parent, and they start to build from there.
There are even times when Huey will refer the parent to a colleague if there are things the parent needs to work on.
Huey is hoping to be able to partner with more pediatricians throughout Stockton and the Central Valley as time goes on, giving her the ability to reach more children that might not otherwise receive the help they so desperately need.
“Our pediatric members have access to our behavioral health network, and we continue to monitor referral trends,” said David Hurst, Health Plan of San Joaquin’s Vice President for External Affairs. “Previously, behavioral health services were carved out of the Medi-Cal Managed Care benefits and provided through the State’s fee-for-service Medi-Cal program. With the integration of most behavioral health services into the managed care plans, we’re encouraged to see that children are not only being appropriately referred, but parents are finding it easier to access these important services.”
Parents and teachers can help in the process by looking for behavior that might be different than normal.
“I tell parents, they’re the expert when it comes to their children. You know how they interact with people, you know how they function,” Huey said. “If you see any changes within them, where they’re not remaining social, playing with other children, their grades are slipping in school, just becoming withdrawn, those are signs to start figuring out what can be going on with the children.”
For teachers, she said, if there is a child acting out or being more active than usual, Huey recommends an assessment because it’s not always ADHD that the child could have.
“In regards to school, it’s tough because classes are overcrowded,” Huey said. “I commend the teachers for being in the trenches with these children. I believe some children are misdiagnosed because they are a little more active than the other children, but they might have other things going on.”
Huey said for teachers that have children who are acting out it’s best to refer the student for an assessment, but not to assume that it’s always ADHD. “A lot of the kids I’m seeing, there’s a lot going on at home.”