Early Childhood Clinic
What is the Early Childhood Clinic?
The Early Childhood Clinic is a specialty clinic within Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine for babies and children age 5 or younger who have:
- Behavior issues, like disruptive behavior
- Sleep problems
- Neurodevelopmental problems
- Exposure to alcohol or drugs before birth (prenatal)
Many of our patients have behavior challenges along with a medical condition or health problem, like obstructive sleep apnea. Sometimes, their behavior and their other condition affect each other, making their care more complex.
We perform a thorough evaluation to understand your child’s challenges and then work closely with you to provide short-term, evidence-based care. Our focus is on helping you as a parent so you can help your child reach their full potential.
We also offer monthly, 1-hour Early Childhood Parenting Skills Classes designed for parents of kids ages 0 to 5 with behavior challenges. Learn more about the Early Childhood Parenting Skill Classes.
We do not treat these conditions
- Sexual abuse or sexual aggression. Call the King County Sexual Assault Center at 1-888-998-6423 or Harborview’s Center for Sexual Assault and Traumatic Stress at 206-744-1600.
- Abuse, trauma or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Call Harborview’s Center for Sexual Assault and Traumatic Stress at 206-744-1600.
How will the Early Childhood Clinic meet my needs?
Early Childhood Clinic providers are experts in the emotions and behavior of babies and young children — and in the treatment methods that work best for their age and developmental stage.
To get a complete picture, we ask you to fill out a family information form online before your first appointment. During your evaluation visits, we also:
- Interview you.
- Ask you to fill out forms that ask questions about your child.
- Watch your child’s behavior, like how they play with you.
If there are signs your child has a developmental problem, we may test for this too. Our goal is to find the source of your child’s struggles. Usually, evaluations take 3 to 4 visits. Then we make a diagnosis and develop a treatment plan.
This is a two-way conversation, where we explain what we found and what we recommend. We get your input about the diagnosis and treatment plan.
For young children, we focus on teaching you, as a parent, the information and skills you need to help your child thrive and succeed. We offer training, coaching, support and resources for you, matched to your child’s behavior and development. (We do not offer play therapy or other forms of one-on-one therapy for children age 5 or younger.)
Depending on your child’s needs, treatment may involve many different options. These are some examples:
- Parent groups at Seattle Children’s where you can gain skills to help your child and get support from other parents
- Training on the most effective ways to handle your child’s behavior with the Early Childhood Clinic team
- Reading materials that address your child’s specific needs
- Trying medicine for your child’s condition (less common for young children) or adjusting your child’s current medicine
- Referral to a behavior specialist to assess why your child acts a certain way and how to change their behavior
- Referrals to other programs at Seattle Children’s, like the Autism Center or Sleep Disorders Program
- Referral for a birth-to-3 center or special education assessment
- Referrals to other community resources
We do not offer these services
- Long-term individual therapy or long-term medicine management.
- In-home therapy. Many community mental health centers provide this service.
- Parenting evaluations for legal purposes, such as developing parenting plans. Visit the Parenting Evaluation Treatment Program (PETP) Graduates webpage for a list of trained providers in the community.
- School evaluations after suspension or expulsion. Contact your child’s school for a list of providers who do “return to school” evaluations.
How to Get Services
We often have more requests from new patients than we have openings. To make an appointment with the Early Childhood Clinic, you need a referral from your child’s primary care provider. Learn more about how to get mental health services at Seattle Children’s.
Once we get a referral from your provider, we will let them know if we have an opening for your child or not.
If you already have an appointment, learn more about how to prepare.
Learn about Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine resources, such as useful links, videos and recommended reading for you and your family.
Have insurance questions?
Some insurance plans have Seattle Children’s as an in-network provider for medical services and an out-of-network provider for mental health services.
Even if your plan offers an out-of-network benefit, we are not accepting new patients for our mental health services if their insurance does not include Seattle Children’s as an in-network provider.
Learn about mental health insurance coverage at Seattle Children’s.
In a Crisis?
If your child or family needs help right away, call your mental health crisis line or text HOME to 741741.
- Washington state: mental health crisis numbers by county
- Alaska: Careline, 877-266-4357
- Idaho: The Crisis Hotline, 208-788-3596
- Montana: Suicide and Crisis Hotlines
- Anywhere in the U.S.: 988 (National Suicide Prevention Lifeline)
- If you or a family member has a problem with a substance use disorder, please consider calling SAMHSA’s National Helpline, 800-662-4357.