I want my son to be successful
“I don’t think we ever got through a (family therapy) session without a gigglefest!” said Sara, a therapist with Catholic Charities Day Treatment Program in St. Cloud.
She was talking with Lucas, a now-former client. Lucas and his mom Lisa had stopped in to see his old friends.
Catholic Charities Day Treatment is an Intensive Outpatient program for kids in grades 1 – 12. The program provides mental health treatment to assist children in functioning more successfully in their homes, schools and communities. Part of the day children receive intensive mental health services, and part of the day is spent in educational programming.
Lucas came to Day Treatment in middle school. In his words, he’d been “acting weird.” He wasn’t behaving, and he wasn’t listening. If he was told to go to the principal’s office, he would go to see another staff member instead, and hang out in their office.
Lisa, Lucas’s mom, knew she needed to work to find a way to change her son’s behavior. “I want him to be successful.”
Lucas was diagnosed as having anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), meaning his behaviors fit someone who is on the Autism Spectrum. These mental health disorders can present challenges in managing emotions, communicating, and understanding themselves and others.
It’s the last part that makes things difficult. Lucas is very smart, and an excellent organizer, but if he opened the refrigerator and found broccoli, spinach, celery and carrots on a shelf, Lucas wouldn’t see “vegetables.” Lucas would see one thing that is not like the others. In his mind, the carrots don’t belong on that shelf, because they aren’t green. He might feel so strongly that he’d throw the carrots in the garbage.
Throwing away perfectly good produce is a problem, but listening to someone tell you that you see the world incorrectly is really hard. When he first came to Day Treatment, “Lucas had a hard time hearing feedback,” said Sara, his therapist. “We’d have to try to figure out what to do differently to help him understand. By the end of his time with us, Lucas was himself offering solutions.”
Lucas’s mom is an important part of his success. Lisa gave staff a heads-up in the morning if something had happened in the evening or morning at home. Staff could then further address issues with Lucas and make suggestions for improvement. “I noticed lots of differences in little ways,” said Lisa. “He would catch himself and stop what was happening faster.”
Lucas said, “When I stopped to think about some of the mean things I’ve done to others, I want to think about myself; to think about the person I want to be.”
While he has struggled with his mental health challenges, Lisa and Catholic Charities staff know that in his heart, Lucas is a good, kind kid.
One of his neighbors was having medical troubles, so Lucas mowed their lawn and watered their flowers. Lucas even agreed to spend time with the ill husband so the wife could have a little break.
Sara said, “His relationships became about giving, not just taking.” She acknowledges that central to Luca’s treatment was his mom, Lisa. “She’s one of the best at advocating for her child.”
Lucas has moved on to his community high school now, looking forward to getting his driver’s license, prom and all the other things teens do. He has a part-time job that harnesses his organizational and process skills.
“We’re really proud of him,” said Sara.