Overcoming early childhood abandonment

February 22, 2013

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Overcoming early childhood abandonment Adopted when he was just three months old, it would seem that Skyler had every opportunity to be successful. But he had a long road of challenges to face before reaching that point, and Four Oaks was integral in helping him and his family get there.

Just getting Skyler to school was a struggle.  Skyler’s mother would drop him off and then immediately lock the doors as soon as he got out of the car. If she  didn’t, he would sneak back into the minivan and refuse to go to school. It got to the point that he would cling to the running boards on the side of his mother’s van until school staff came and physically carried him into the building. Skyler’s struggles would continue throughout the school day. He became increasingly violent, and in 5th grade he assaulted multiple teachers and was charged with assault. Eventually, the school was forced to expel Skyler and his mother was left distraught about how to get her child the education he deserved.

Skyler was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and reactive attachment disorder (RAD). It was found that, due to his diagnosis and missing out on some of the critical nurturing that occurs in the first weeks of life, Skyler suffers from extreme separation anxiety, especially when it comes to attending school.

To help Skyler succeed with his new diagnosis he was enrolled in Four Oaks’ therapeutic classroom in Ankeny. This program involves the design of specialized programming that takes into account each student’s specific mental health diagnosis and needs.  Four Oaks staff collaborate with mental health professionals to ensure that the programming takes into consideration any prior trauma that the child may have experienced. In Skyler’s case this meant approaching him in a way that would prevent him from feeling abandoned and demonstrating that he was in a safe environment.  

The difference has been night and day. Today, Skyler is ready for school on time and waits eagerly for the bus each morning because he loves to go to school. His violent episodes have decreased dramatically, and he is learning how to recognize and deal with his emotions in a constructive way.  This year, he has made significant progress in his reading and writing, not only in the quality but in his attitude towards education. Skyler’s mother shares that he loves to bring home assignments to show off and even write the family grocery lists before they go shopping!

Most importantly, Skyler’s mother reports that stress levels in the home are at an all-time low, and she finally feels good about sending him to school, knowing he is getting the support and education he deserves.