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The text require for this master in social work psychopathology class is dsm5
read and analyze the case and answer questions listed at bottom. this case study allow students to engage in critical reflection and develop skills in biopsychosocial assessment, diagnosis,and differential diagnosis.
Case Study
Identifying Information
Client Name: Sarah Cisneros
Age: 7 years old
Ethnicity: Hispanic
Educational Level: Second grade
Parents: Regina and Don Cisneros
Background Information

Sarah Cisneros is a 7-year-old Hispanic female who has just started the second grade
at Hutto Elementary School. She is a friendly and engaging child, although she has had
numerous problems at school. Last year, the teacher reported that Sarah had difficulty
following directions and staying in her seat and talked incessantly. She often got into
disagreements with other children on the playground when she couldn’t seem to follow
the rules of a game they were playing. Her teacher also stated that she had difficulty
learning the alphabet and writing letters and numbers. Sarah often reversed words,
saying “tac” instead of “cat” and “kool” instead of “look.” Although she had a difficult time
in first grade, her teacher felt that Sarah was just an active child who would “settle
down” when she entered second grade.

At the beginning of second grade, Sarah’s parents separated. Sarah stayed with her
mother, Regina, age 27. Regina moved back to Sarah’s grandmother’s home and went
to work as an administrative assistant at a law firm in town. Sarah’s father, Don, age 32,
moved in with a girlfriend he had been seeing for several months prior to the separation.
Don travels extensively in his job as an international computer sales representative. He
is often out of the country for 3–4 weeks at a time. Sarah told her grandmother, “My
heart won’t hurt anymore when my daddy comes back to live with me.” Regina and Don
have told Sarah that they are just living in separate places for a little while.

When Regina discovered that Don was seeing another woman, she became very angry
and de- pressed. She began working overtime, sometimes 12 hours a day, as a way of
coping with the upheaval in her marriage. Sarah often sees her mother only early in the
morning when Sarah is getting ready for school. Sarah’s grandmother takes care of her
after school. She complains to Regina that Sarah is “headstrong” and “can’t seem to
follow directions.” She also tells Regina that if Sarah were given a good spanking she
would “straighten up.”

Regina just doesn’t feel she has the energy to deal with Sarah’s behavior and told her
mother, “I just can’t deal with everything, Mom. You need to help me with the discipline.
I can’t be mother and father, hold down a job, and deal with Don. It’s just too much for
me right now.”
Regina’s mother told Sarah that if she didn’t follow directions, she would get a spanking.
Sarah screamed, “If my Daddy was here, he’d give you a spanking,” and ran to her
room, slamming the door.

Regina decided to enroll Sarah in Brownie Scouts for one afternoon a week after
school. The Brownie Scout leader is a friend of Regina’s who lives down the street and
said she’d bring Sarah home after the Scout meeting. Although Sarah was very excited
about being a Brownie, she had difficulty getting along with the other girls. She couldn’t
sit quietly and work on projects; she often interrupted the leader with silly outbursts; she
got bored easily and began running around the room; and she disrupted the meetings
with her constant chatter.

After several weeks, the Brownie leader called Regina and told her that perhaps Sarah
needs another year before she’s mature enough to be in Brownie Scouts. Regina was
so frustrated that when she got home from work, she screamed at Sarah, gave her a
spanking, and sent her to her room. Sarah slammed her door and began throwing all
her toys off the shelves. She screamed for 2 hours until she was so exhausted that she
lay down on the floor and went to sleep.

After this incident, Regina, feeling very guilty, sought the advice of the counselor at
school. The counselor suggested that Sarah may need an out- let for all her energy—
something that involves physical activity. Regina decided to enroll Sarah in a ballet
class on Saturday mornings at the local dance company. Once again, Sarah was very
excited about being in the ballet class. She went shopping with Regina and bought a
pink leotard with matching ballet slippers. Sarah danced around the house all day in her
leotard in anticipation of the class.

Unfortunately, when Sarah began the dance lessons, the ballet teacher had the same
complaints the Brownie leader had about Sarah’s inability to follow directions and pay
attention in the class. Regina felt at her wit’s end about what to do next. She called Don
and told him the problems she has been having with Sarah, and he told her, “You just
let her get away with murder. When I was that age and I didn’t obey my parents, I got a
whipping and it never happened again. I’ll take her for a weekend and teach her a
lesson or two.”

Regina angrily told him, “Don’t bother,” and hung up the phone.
Late one night shortly after this altercation with her husband, Regina was sitting by
herself in the living room of the dark house watching the news on television. During a
public announcement commercial for a Fun Run, she noticed that one of the sponsors
was the Family Mental Health Center, a private nonprofit organization. Regina wrote
down the phone number, and the next day at work, she made an appointment to go talk to a counselor about Sarah. The intake worker told Regina that the counselor would like to talk to Regina at the first appointment before she brought Sarah to the agency.

Initial Interview with Regina (Client’s Mother)

The counselor introduces herself as Peggy Ross, a clinical social work practitioner who
works with children and families. Peggy tells Regina about the agency and what her role
as a counselor is. Regina tells Peggy about the problems she has been having with
Sarah since her separation from her husband. She states that she just can’t do anything
with Sarah anymore and she just doesn’t know what to do. She states that it is difficult
living with her mother; however, her mother does provide child-care so that Regina can

Peggy asks Regina whether the behaviors that Sarah has been displaying are new
behaviors or ones that were present before the separation. “Come to think of it,” says
Regina, “Sarah has had trouble ever since she started school. Even in kindergarten,
she didn’t seem to listen to the teacher. She’s not a dumb child. In fact, I think she’s
very smart, above average. But when it comes to completing her homework, she’s a
mess. She loses things she needs for assignments. She seems completely
disorganized; she spreads all her stuff around and then can’t find anything. She’s
always excited when she starts projects, but then it’s like pulling teeth to get her to

Peggy asks Regina about her and Don’s child- hood experiences. Although Regina
doesn’t know why that’s important, she tells Peggy that she had no problems in school
and, in fact, excelled in all her classes. “I was a classic good little girl. I knew if I wasn’t,
I’d get in big trouble at home,” Regina told the counselor.

Peggy asked about Don’s childhood experiences. Regina stated that Don’s experience
was very different. He was constantly getting into trouble and was very active as a little
boy. He once told Regina that he was considered the “class clown” all through
elementary school. Although he at- tempted a variety of sports, he was never very good
at anything except soccer. He said he could run longer than most kids his age. He was
a skinny, high-strung child. Regina tells the counselor that Don recently told her that he
got whipped all the time for his bad behavior. She says that she doesn’t really think
spanking helps Sarah. She relates the incident of the night she spanked Sarah out of
frustration and the tantrum that Sarah threw afterward.

After obtaining information about Regina, Don, and Sarah’s present difficulties, Peggy
suggests that Regina bring Sarah with her for the next interview. She states that she
has some ideas about what is going on with Sarah but would like to talk with her before
making any assessment. In the mean- time, she gives Regina a form to fill out on
Sarah’s behavior as she observes it over the next week. She also asks her to sign a form giving Peggy permission to talk to Sarah’s teacher at school. The following week, Regina brings Sarah to the agency to talk with Peggy.

Interview with Sarah (Client)

Peggy meets Sarah in the waiting room of the agency. She readily goes with Peggy to
her office. Peggy gives Sarah a few choices of some things they can do together while
they talk, including drawing, puppets, and a board game. Sarah has a hard time
deciding what to do and after making a choice, she quickly grows bored with drawing a
picture and wants to do something else.

When Peggy suggests they can do something else once they have finished their
pictures, Sarah gets irritable and keeps jumping up from the table and wandering
around the room. She says that she has lots of friends at school. She likes recreation
time the best because she likes to jump rope. She also tells Peggy that she doesn’t like
her teacher, who is always mean to her. When Peggy asks her why she is mean, Sarah
states, “She makes me sit in my chair and do my letters over and over again. It’s

While Sarah is easy to engage, she talks constantly and has difficulty focusing her
attention on any one task. She wants to play with all the items on Peggy’s desk, and
when Peggy says she can’t play with those things, Sarah stomps her feet and says, “If
my daddy were here, he’d let me.” Peggy feels very tired after 30 minutes with Sarah.
Peggy invites Don to come in for an interview, but Don states that he has to be out of
town for a month and thinks that the problem is simply Regina’s problem with lack of
discipline with Sarah. Peggy tells Don that she’ll call him when he returns from his trip.
After talking to Sarah’s teacher at school and the school counselor, Peggy is ready to
make an initial assessment of Sarah. The teacher told Peggy that Sarah often makes
careless mistakes, has difficulty finishing her work, is two grade levels below in math
and often gets in trouble for irritating other children.


The social worker, Peggy, asks herself the following questions.
How would you answer them?
Reflective Journal Questions:
1. How would you describe the presenting problem? Identify specific “symptoms”
that may indicate problem in behavior.
2. What are some of the psychosocial issues facing Sarah?
3. What resources might be available to help Sarah and her family (e.g.,
counseling options)?

4. What diagnosis would you give Sarah, and why? Provide a detailed explanation
of your choice. For example, why did you select this diagnosis, as opposed to
another diagnosis in this category?
Choose from the following neurodevelopmental disorders: Intellectual Disability,
Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and/or Autism Spectrum Disorder.

5. What are some of the strengths of this family?

6. List the cultural factors that you would take into consideration when working
with this client and family

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