Many people have asked us many questions about why we chose the route we did to find treatment to help our son. We have been asked if he will come home, what kind of treatment is he receiving there that he can’t receive at home, and am I afraid of things that can happen while he is away. I hope that this post will answer some of the questions that have been asked.
Placing our son in residential treatment was quite possibly one of the two most difficult decisions a parent could be forced to make for their child. It is not a decision that is taken lightly and it is not a decision made in haste. The decision to place a child in residential treatment is one made carefully, methodically, and only after exhausting all other efforts.
Prior to making the decision to place our son, we spent years working with various therapists, searching for a psychiatrist or developmental pediatrician who could understand him. We worked with professionals from across the state and considered searching for assistance out of state. We had intensive in home therapy services that came in to work with him, and our family, we had outside therapy. We were given the suggestion by medical professionals to place him in residential treatment long before we could even comprehend the possibility. We searched endlessly for help for our son.
Most times, because of his Asperger Syndrome, he was unable to form a solid relationship with the professionals we worked with. The lack of that solid relationship often caused negative, rather than positive changes. Therefore, no matter what help we found, we were not seeing improvements or growth in his ability to handle situations that would cause him emotional discomfort. He was unable to self soothe or deescalate in difficult situations. Due to his sensory issues, he also easily became overwhelmed by things that never occurred to most individuals, causing him further emotional discomfort, as well as physical discomfort.
In an effort to prevent the emotional and physical discomfort associated with his disabilities, his personality became very controlling. He wanted everything to be exactly the way he pictured it, even play time had to be exactly as he pictured it, or he would become upset because of the perceived loss of control. This was the case from the time he woke up until the time he went to bed. With the inability to self soothe or deescalate, he began to externalize his feelings of discomfort in the form of tantrums and rages.
Despite what some may think, this was not due to poor parenting or his being a spoiled brat. Though, admittedly, I am not raising my children the way others raise theirs or believe that children should be raised. This was due to his syndrome, a syndrome that falls under an umbrella of disorders that are growing in numbers of children being diagnosed. Many of these children have the same types of behaviors. These children are not bad kids or spoiled brats, they are children with a developmental disorder. It is a disability like Down’s Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, Learning Disabilities, and so on.
Many families deal with these behaviors, these issues and concerns daily. Many of them have only one child, the one who has been diagnosed and is experiencing these things and are able to devote every moment to them. However, just as many other families have more than just 1 or 2 children and have these other children to consider in the treatment plans for their child. We fall into the latter category.
The true sign that it was time for our family to make the decision was when our other children were being adversely affected by his behavior. His anxiety and agitation levels would cause their anxiety levels to rise. They were at a point where, while they love and adore their big brother, they were also terrified. They knew what he was capable of when he was upset and no matter the precipitating factor causing his agitation, they were afraid. They needed therapeutic care, albeit a different kind, as much as he did. They needed to learn that he loves them, but because of his disability, he is unable to always make the best choices. They needed to learn they did not cause his behaviors that he often blamed them for.
With these things in mind, we made the decision to place him in residential treatment where he could receive wrap around therapy. He receives therapy several times a week with his therapist, who also helps him process situations outside of therapy many other times during the week. He also receives group therapy, activity therapy, art therapy, an ability to play team sports in a more controlled and understanding environment, and always someone to help him work through difficult moments. Our goal was for him to be accepted, participate, and complete a program giving him the skills to self soothe, deescalate, and learn to cope with his disability. Our long term goal, for him, was to become a successful, productive adult. Our goal for our younger children was for them to participate in individual and family therapy sessions, in order to overcome the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder that were being exhibited. Finally, our family goal is, of course, for us to come together and become a cohesive, functional family without the fears and turmoil that were experienced prior to residential treatment.
Now that he is participating in the program, we are seeing growth among all members of the family. While the progress is slow, it is steady. He has already improved his communication with us, his parents. He tells us what happens during the day, including the inappropriate behaviors. He asks to talk to his siblings, tells them he loves and misses them. He also accepts when they say the same. This is great progress, but it does not begin to break the ice.
Yes, he does exhibit the same behaviors there that we saw at home. The first few weeks were a honeymoon period, but that has since ended and they have seen the same beautiful, intelligent, and hurting boy that we know. They have seen his creativity, his excitement about learning, his persevering on things of particular interest such as football and paper crafts. They have seen the beautiful boy who does not know how to self soothe and deescalate, so becomes overwhelmed and externalizes his feelings. They also, however, have the tools, training, and knowledge to help him immediately work through those situations and learn skills to do those things so that he no longer externalizes inappropriately.
It is imperative that he continue in this program where he has formed a solid relationship with his therapist. He has adjusted well and is learning the skills to cope with his disabilities and the real world. However, he has a long way to go. Yes, he will come home. We pray that every day is a day closer to him successfully returning home and going about life successfully. However, we also know that without completing this program, returning home would cause setbacks that may be difficult to overcome. The program is set up as a 5-12 month program. He has been there 2 months and God willing, he will be given the opportunity to successfully complete the program without continuing to fight insurance for this treatment.