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One Little Boy’s Story

“Evan” is a quiet, shy boy with a traumatic history. His early years were not very different than those of other kids at Ryther. At age three, he was removed from his home due to chronic neglect by his mother caused by her addiction to drugs. He was placed in a relative’s home where he was allegedly abused. Next, he moved to a foster home and was adopted. This should have been the beginning of a happy childhood, but instead, Evan was having a hard time adapting to a very busy household with a lot of children, some adopted and some with special needs. He reacted with aggressiveness, banging his head and ripping out his hair. What was perplexing was that he did fine in other settings, like school.

When Evan was brought to Ryther at age 7 by his adoptive parents, we didn’t see those negative behaviors. Through a comprehensive assessment, including decreasing his medication dosages, we discovered that he has sensory integration issues and possible fetal alcohol effect. He processed information very slowly and disliked loud noises intensely. We worked with him using basic Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for anxiety so he could learn how to manage his environment.

Much of his anxiety decreased from being in a highly structured setting with clear expectations. He loved the sameness of each day and said that the cottage was quieter than his adoptive home. He liked being at Ryther. After a couple of months, the sad message had to be communicated to Evan that his adoptive parents were not going to take him back. He expressed his hurt and anger over not having a family by slamming doors and clamming up.

Staff helped him use feeling words to work through his feelings. They also encouraged him to watch his physical space and participate in the cottage community. He did well with the red-yellow-green light behavioral system and was rewarded with extra time in the sandbox and Hot Wheels cars from the prize box. Ryther also gave him the skills to have more positive social interactions with peers. Evan’s therapist helped him understand that his former family environment was not a very good fit for him and that he was going to leave Ryther and go to a really good home with fewer children and highly skilled caregivers. There was a goodbye group for him and everyone said something nice that they will remember about him and why they will miss him.

We wish Evan the best. He has tools now that he didn’t have before.


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