ABC News’ ‘20/20’ Reports on Children Whose Parents Say Rapidly Developed Devastating Psychiatric and Neurological Problems Following Strep Throat, Friday, July 20

ABC News’ ‘20/20’ Reports on Children Whose Parents Say Rapidly Developed Devastating Psychiatric and Neurological Problems Following Strep Throat, Friday, July 20


Friday’s Broadcast Investigates the Controversial Disorder Known as PANDAS and the Desperate Search for Answers

‘20/20’ Airs Friday, July 20 (10:01 – 11:00 p.m. EDT), on ABC

What if your child suddenly went from being happy one day to angry and violent the next? “20/20” embeds with three families across the country who have watched their children rapidly begin to exhibit a wide range of psychiatric and neurological problems. One thing in common that preceded the symptoms: a brush with strep throat. ABC News’ Juju Chang follows these families and their children as they undergo treatment and desperately search for answers. “20/20” investigates the controversy behind the disorder, known as PANDAS (Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorder Associated with Streptococcal infections), that some doctors are skeptical even exists. “20/20” airs Friday, July 20 (10:01–11:00 p.m. EDT), on ABC.

Juju interviews members of families impacted by PANDAS including Natalie, Brian and Parker Barnes; Christine, Mike and Kathryn Ulicki; and Vanessa, Brian and Alexia Baier. The hour also includes the families’ home videos which document their children’s distressing behavior and interviews with Dr. Susan Swedo, who first identified the syndrome 20 years ago; Dr. Beth Latimer, a pediatric neurologist who takes on PANDAS cases that many others do not; Dr. Donald Gilbert, professor of child neurology at the University of Cincinnati, who cautions that many are misdiagnosed as having PANDAS; and filmmaker Tim Sorel, who made a documentary about families’ struggles with PANDAS.  

In Prior Lake, Minnesota, the Barnes family was turned upside down when eldest son, fourth-grader Parker, suddenly became anxious, depressed and occasionally violent. One day he was found standing in a trance, knife in hand. Desperate to find answers, Natalie and Brian took Parker to Washington, D.C., to see Dr. Latimer. Since meeting Dr. Latimer, Parker has continued a combination of medication, steroid treatments and injections to boost his immune system by a local immunologist, but so far nothing has permanently stopped his PANDAS outbursts. “20/20” is with the Barnes as they discuss their battle with insurance companies over a medical procedure for Parker that would include a five-day stay in the intensive care unit and could cost them up to $100,000.

Kathryn was a typical 9-year-old in Cheshire, Connecticut, when she suddenly stopped eating and became extremely paranoid that anything she swallowed, including her own saliva, would cause her to have an intense allergic reaction. Despite desperately wanting to eat and drink, she couldn’t make herself and ended up being fed through a tube in the hospital. But after a trip to Dr. Latimer and several different treatments, cameras are with the family after Kathryn’s bizarre behavior quickly disappears as if it had never happened.

Alexia was a well-behaved 4-year-old from Montgomery, Illinois, who was diagnosed with strep throat in the winter of 2014. Just as the infection disappeared after a course of antibiotics, her parents say so did her bubbly personality. Alexia became angry overnight and began having outbursts at home, in stores and at preschool where she would destroy the classroom, scream, and hit and kick adults. Soon the outbursts turned into threats, culminating in Alexia stabbing her mother in the eye with a mascara stick and being admitted to a psych ward for nine days. “20/20” follows the now 8-year-old whose PANDAS is kept in check, her parents say, due to multiple treatments.

“20/20” is anchored by David Muir and Amy Robach. David Sloan is senior executive producer.

PHOTO (Juju Chang interviews Parker Barnes):
PHOTO (Interview with Kathryn Ulicki): 
PHOTO (Interview with Alexia Baier):

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