When Tyler was in second grade, he experienced some bullying. Like many kids in the same situation, Tyler often protected his antagonists, not wanting to ‘rat’ on anyone.
But Wanda, his grandmother and legal guardian, knew something was wrong because he often came home with bruises.
In spite of Wanda’s attempts to have the school intervene, the situation continued. By the time he was in third grade, Tyler began acting out aggressively – kicking chairs, lashing out at other kids and generally being disruptive.
Often, the school would call Wanda and ask that she come pick him up – they were unable to effectively deal with Tyler’s behavior. This cost him valuable time in school.
“I knew Tyler needed someone to talk to about his experiences being bullied,” said Wanda. “He needed help overcoming that trauma and help believing again that he’s a good kid.”
So Wanda reached out to The Village. Tyler began outpatient therapy through our Enhanced Care Clinic, and it quickly became clear that Tyler would benefit from more frequent, intensive help. He was put on a waiting list for our Extended Day Treatment Program (EDT), and Wanda was hopeful when a spot opened up.
Our EDT program is for children ages 5-14 whose behavior – like aggression, distractibility and difficulty with peer relationships – makes it hard for them to be successful in school. The Village runs EDT programs in Hartford, Manchester, Meriden and Middletown, serving nearly 300 children a year. There is often a waiting list to join.
“We work with children to help them set goals, learn to express their feelings and deal with conflict in healthy, productive ways,” said Melissa White, associate vice president of programs. “We also provide support and guidance to families – to connect them with other resources in the schools and community and build a foundation for success for their children.”
The kids come every day after school, three hours a day for six months. They work on individualized goals and build skills in peer groups and individual therapy sessions.
“When Tyler joined EDT, he kept to himself,” said Elisa Carbone, Tyler’s clinician. But soon, with the extra attention, Tyler was able to open up about his experience being bullied. “It was obvious that Tyler is a sensitive kid, always afraid of what others think of him.”
With lots of encouragement, Tyler began participating in group activities and play therapy with the other kids in the program, which helped improve his interactions with others.
“He has a very protective nature, and would usually take on that role in the group setting,” said Elisa. Tyler also learned how to cope when he started to feel overwhelmed, like identifying safe spaces where he could take a break.
Parents also learn coping skills, and about other resources in the school and community that can support them and their child. They attend bi-weekly therapy sessions and groups with other families each month. Wanda came to every group session, shifting her work schedule as necessary to be sure she could attend.
“She really understands how to approach Tyler and is good at helping others understand Tyler. She is a strong advocate,” said Elisa.
Incentives worked well with Tyler. EDT offers a field trip each week during the school year and two each week during the summer. The kids often earn the chance to go on the field trips through positive interactions and good behavior. Tyler only missed two field trips during his six months with the program.
Tyler’s turnaround is not surprising – EDT is highly successful. Ninety-six percent of the kids in EDT over the past year did not need hospitalization, more intensive treatment or out-of-home placement while in the program. And 84 percent of the clients and their families report being satisfied with the program, with 93 percent reporting improved social support.
Tyler loved the program so much, he was sad to leave. But armed with new coping skills and tools, he is taking on fifth grade in a new school.
Tyler has better self-esteem and is better able to express his opinions. He’s good at finding common interests with his peers, making it easier for him to connect and have positive interactions.
“Tyler was a like a broken kid before. Now he’s confident – sometimes overconfident!” Wanda says with a smile. “He even tries to tell me how to do things and gives me pointers.”
This story was originally featured in our 2015 annual report.