DALLAS, Sep 9, 2014 — At first glance, the large canvas displaying hundreds of dots in a rainbow of colors is just one of many beautiful pieces displayed in the room at The Center for Pediatric Eating Disorders at Children’s Medical Center at Legacy. After spending time in the serene and colorful room, you learn that each dot represents every child who has successfully completed the nationally-recognized eating disorders program.
Each year, anorexia nervosa, bulimia and other eating-related disorders affect more and more children, pre-teens and teens. The National Eating Disorders Association reports that 81 percent of 10-year-olds are afraid of being fat. The number of pediatric eating disorders is growing at an accelerated rate and, with it, the demand for quality care.
The Center for Pediatric Eating Disorders at Children’s Medical Center is the only program in the region that offers a full continuum of specialized services for children with eating disorders and is the only pediatric eating disorders program in the country with disease-specific certification by The Joint Commission. Patients and families have access to the world-class subspecialty care at Children’s Medical Center while being treated by a multidisciplinary team of psychiatrists, psychologists, Magnet-designated nurses, therapists and teachers.
At the core of the program is a family-centered approach to care – parents are required to be actively involved throughout the treatment period.
“Our family-based approach to patients with eating disorders is centered in the belief that families should not be blamed for their child’s illness,” says Urszula Kelley, M.D., medical director of psychiatric services at Children’s Legacy, attending psychiatrist at The Center for Pediatric Eating Disorders and professor of psychiatry at UT Southwestern Medical Center. “Through intensive family therapy and education, our program recognizes families as an essential resource for recovery. This approach helps coach the parents and patient toward success and is one of the key reasons for our program’s high success rate.”
Despite stereotypes, eating disorders patients cross all cultural, gender and age lines. The program at Children’s cares for male and female patients from ages 5- to 18-years-old with anorexia nervosa, bulimia and other eating-related disorders, such as avoidant-restrictive food intake disorder.
According to Dr. Kelley, the number of eating disorders among boys will likely continue to grow. Fifteen percent of patients admitted to Children’s in 2013 were male – the highest percentage the program has seen in its 30 years treating children with eating disorders.
The program lauds high success rates, with very low readmittance rates. Ninety-one percent of its anorexic patients are able to attain 85 percent ideal body weight prior to discharge and have a 30 percent decrease in cognitive distortions from admissions to discharge from the program.
Studies have found that eating disorders have the highest rate of morbidity and mortality among all mental illnesses. The eating disorder program is designed to be a supportive environment where patients and their families can heal physically, mentally and emotionally.
The facility at Children’s Medical Center at Legacy boasts bright, cheerful rooms with large windows overlooking sprawling grounds with horses and a 100-year-old story tree for group therapy, journaling and quiet reflection. Patients eat meals together with their families in a private dining room and kitchen. Also nestled inside is the art room with thousands of pieces of patient art, including the dot painting – which stands as a symbol of hope for each patient who embarks on their healing journey at The Center for Pediatric Eating Disorders at Children’s Medical Center.