Neveah’s introduction to this world was rough. Her mother, Tabitha, who didn’t think she could have children, suffered from pre-eclampsia and had to deliver Neveah by C-section. Then, beginning at age one, Neveah began demonstrating behaviors that concerned Tabitha.
“She had spells, where she wouldn’t be able to move, or couldn’t stand up straight,” said Tabitha. When Neveah began talking to herself and referring to herself in the third person around age 2, Tabitha wondered if it was all connected.
In spite of receiving services from a few programs, Neveah’s behavior became progressively worse. At times, she’d become verbally and physically aggressive and was hyperactive. When Neveah started school, Tabitha was often called to pick her up for attacking other kids and even adults. Neveah would miss valuable time in school, and Tabitha was at risk of losing her job.
Tabitha was terrified. “Because of my own mental health issues, I felt that everyone I reached out to for help didn’t take me seriously,” she said.
Finally, Tabitha was referred to The Village’s Extended Day Treatment (EDT) program – a six-month intensive after-school program for kids ages 5-14 who suffer from behavioral or emotional challenges that affect their success in school and at home.
“I was afraid to sign her up at first. I thought it would just be more of the same,” said Tabitha. “I was tired of people not believing my concerns or making me feel like Neveah’s problems were my fault.”
“When I met Tabitha, I could tell that she had told her story before and that she hadn’t been listened to,” said Caitryn Gustafson, a clinician with the EDT program. “I could tell that this was like a last resort for her.”
So Caitryn did what Village professionals are trained to do – she listened. “I saw her as someone who is very genuine and someone who is willing and motivated to be engaged in her daughter’s treatment.”
Then Caitryn began working with Neveah and saw first-hand what Tabitha had told her about.
“Neveah is sweet, energetic, fun-loving,” said Caitryn. “Tabitha and I were both interested in preserving that part of her personality. We didn’t want to change Neveah, we wanted to help her with her behavioral, safety and mental health issues – without changing who she is as a person.”
In the beginning of the program, Neveah required a lot of individual attention, and coordination with the other adults in her life.
“We worked with Neveah’s school, her doctors and other providers to help get Neveah where she needed to be. It was a lot of meetings and phone calls, but it was important that everyone be on the same page and using the same language around her,” said Caitryn.
Tabitha developed a strong relationship with Caitryn and would reach out to her for advice; she also attended bi-monthly group therapy sessions.
“I saw an improvement in the first two weeks,” said Tabitha. Neveah would sense when she was getting upset and recognize her own need for space to calm down. She started showing a greater respect for others. She started making friends again.
Now that Neveah has completed the program, “she is better able to communicate her needs and feelings in a more appropriate way,” said Caitryn. “She doesn’t have to resort to physical or verbal aggression.”
Tabitha is thrilled with Neveah’s progress. “My little girl – my Neveah is back.”
Pictured above: Neveah and Caitryn