By Patricia Rice Doran
The mother’s story was one that I have heard many times over the past few months, with some variation in detail. Her child, an A and B student with many friends and outside interests, had awoken one morning and refused to go to school. In the following weeks, he developed elaborate rituals that consumed his time, paralyzing fears that made it difficult to function in school or out of it, and intense and frequent rages. His teachers quickly ran out of ideas and strategies, and the student found himself failing five out of six classes.
After months of therapy and numerous specialist visits, the parents finally received the correct diagnosis for their son: Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections, or PANDAS. His symptoms were attributable to an immune-system reaction triggered by exposure to infection and, happily, resolved upon appropriate treatment. Some figures suggest this reaction, far from being rare, occurs in up to 1 in 200 children, suggesting that most of us will encounter individuals with this condition whether we (or they) realize it.