The conference was sponsored by the HOGG Foundation for Mental Health and Harris County Department of Education Head Start.
“We believe in order for our communities to be whole and well, that children and families have to be well,” said Vicky Coffee, HOGG Foundation for Mental Health director of programs. “By supporting this conference that focuses on learning and education around mental health, the signs and symptoms of what to look for with young children we are starting early in recognizing their needs in ways we can support them in their future endeavors.”
This year, over 200 attendees participated in breakout sessions ranging from depression, infant mental health, ADHD, stress, etc.
Dr. Dawn Brown, a double-board certified child psychiatrist, founded The ADHD Wellness Center in Houston.
“I love working with ADHD because I have it,” she said. “I do recommend medication management to my patients even to children as young as 5. There are roadblocks and detours, but I am wanting to change that perspective. We are meeting your child where you are and teaching positive reinforcement.”
Licensed professional counselor and registered play therapist Haley Garth believes play is children’s truest language, and toys are their words. She always gets asked what the toys mean, and she responds that they can mean whatever they want them to mean.
“When a child asks me this question, I say it’s whatever you need it to be,” Garth said. “We have a wide array of toys, physical and spiritual, animals, inanimate objects, highly aggressive and non-aggressive animals. The treatment cycle varies from 16 to 20 weeks to a few years, depending on the circumstance.”
Attendees benefitted from specialists and also heard from keynote Dr. Melitón Moya.
The goal is for early childhood providers to be mindful of mental health issues and to be able to connect families to resources, said HCDE Head Start Senior Director Venetia Peacock.