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Supporting Development During Military Deployment and After April 2018

Trier, Katherine A. MD*; Pappas, Demetra MD, MPH*; Bovitz, Bryan PhD; Augustyn, Marilyn MD

Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics: June 2018 - Volume 39 - Issue 5 - p 447–449
doi: 10.1097/DBP.0000000000000584
Challenging Case
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CASE: Ryan is a 6-year-old child new to your primary care practice after relocating from out of state with his father and younger sister. Ryan's grandmother recently expressed concerns about Ryan's social skills and behavior. He was subsequently diagnosed by a developmental and behavioral pediatrician with autism spectrum disorder, global developmental delay, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. At your first visit with Ryan, his father provides the following history: When Ryan was 3 years old, he was living with his mother and infant sister while his father was serving his fourth tour of duty with the marines in Afghanistan. One night, while Ryan was sleeping in bed with his mother, she died suddenly from a pulmonary embolism. Ryan's father was then called home from Afghanistan to take care of the children.

Ryan's father explains that this was his first time serving as a primary caregiver for any prolonged period. He felt overwhelmed and unprepared, both cognitively and emotionally, to return from a combat zone and assume full-time, single-parent responsibilities. Ryan's father admitted knowing little about child development and had not had sustained interactions with his own children because of frequent deployments. He did not appreciate the delays and atypicalities in Ryan's development until he moved back home with his own mother and she expressed concerns. Ryan's father had his own psychological, emotional, and physical challenges from participating in active combat, including chronic pain in his shoulder from multiple gunshot wounds. Despite moving back home to be close to his family, Ryan's father admits feeling isolated and reports that “no one knows what it feels like.”

How would you provide unique support to Ryan and his family? What treatment modalities are particularly important to emphasize?

*Division of Developmental Medicine, Boston Children's Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA;

Pediatric Behavior Medicine, United States Air Force, Ramstein Air Force Base, Ramstein-Miesenbach, Germany;

Department of Pediatrics, Boston University, Boston, MA.

Disclosure: The authors declare no conflict of interest.

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