Mostly – and Almost Always – I Don’t Have Anxiety Anymore

With help from a team of professionals at The Village and his caring mom, 10-year-old Sebastian learns effective ways to deal with anxiety and other challenges.

Ten-year-old Sebastian loves school. Probably because he’s so intelligent and soaks up knowledge like a sponge. But school is also a challenge for him because he suffers from ADHD and significant anxiety, and has difficulty socializing with his peers.

As a single mom of a child who struggles, Awilda says it’s been hard. Sebby has been receiving services since he was three. He received services from the state’s Birth to Three early intervention program. When he was in first grade, he started receiving outpatient therapy through The Village’s Enhanced Care Clinic.

“He has struggled a lot,” says Awilda. “First, he experienced issues with his dad not being there. He understands all the things that were going on at home.”

“And he has trouble socially,” she said. “It’s hard for him to pick up cues from the kids in school – he might be invading their space or talking too loud, and he doesn’t see how it’s affecting them. And because he takes things very literally, he gets stuck on things. He’ll argue a point – with his classmates, a teacher or anyone – if he believes he’s correct. If he thinks you’re wrong, he’ll let you know.”

“In many ways, he’s like a little adult – he’s very intellectual,” Awilda says. “He challenges everything. There are days when I work all day, pick him up from school and I just want to relax. And he’s challenging something or arguing about something.”

And then there are the panic attacks in school. “It was so hard,” she says. “He’d be in a classroom of kids and something would trigger a panic attack, but he wouldn’t tell the teacher. He didn’t know how.”

This fall, Sebby started fifth grade. “I like school,” says Sebby when asked how it’s going, which is music to his mom’s ears. Overall, Sebby’s experience at school is improving, his ADHD is well controlled, and his anxiety is lessening. “I know how it feels,” he says, moving his hands in circles in front of his stomach, “when I’m anxious. And I really don’t feel that way anymore.”

He’s also better able to focus in school – his favorite subjects are math and science.

Socially, he’s made good progress, also. This summer, he participated in a two-week camp sponsored by Hartford Stage, in which he performed in front of hundreds of students and parents. He was able to recognize and express emotions in an appropriate fashion.

Clinician Beth Meekins, on the left, often starts a therapy session with Sebby and his mom Awilda, using a board game.

How was this progress made? First, there were weekly, then biweekly, and now monthly therapy sessions with his clinician, Beth Meekins.

“In our sessions with Sebby, we’d use games, activities and talking about his feelings,” said Beth. “For example, to help him understand that there’s not just one right way to do something, we created a map and picked a destination.Then we talked about how we might get there, and explored different ways to get there and the advantages of each one. He saw that his classmates can have other ideas that are different from his – that may also be right.”

“My role also involved sessions with his mom, which seemed to really help her,” said Beth. “Awilda is a very involved mom. I’d answer her questions and work with her on various approaches to Sebby’s challenging behavior. We also talked about his strengths and how they might be nurtured.”

Sebby also benefitted from seeing one of our psychiatrists, Dr. Eric Geigle, for almost three years. “With Sebby, we focused first on addressing his ADHD to help him focus better and reduce his frustration in school.

There’s a tremendous overlap between ADHD and trauma-based challenges and anxiety. We needed to sort out what was what with Sebby, because the treatment is different.

Medication helped Sebby with the ADHD, but it wasn’t enough.

Sebby’s success in school was also possible because of tight-knit teamwork, between Awilda, Beth, Eric and his teachers, all supporting his strengths, monitoring his challenges and working together to help him address them.

“There was regular interaction with the school,” said Dr. Geigle. “Beth and I would review the reports – on his academic progress, his behavioral issues and his social progress. And as things changed over time, we would continually adjust medication and our approaches.”

“Awilda is fantastically receptive to trying different parenting techniques that we suggest,” he said. “We have a mutual respect for each other, and that really helps Sebby.”

For the future, Sebby may still experience challenges as he faces new transitions, but he has a good support system and his intelligence is a protective factor. “He’s so smart, I really think he can be anything he wants to be,” said his mom.

Getting to this point has not been easy. “It’s really hard to be a single parent, to see your child struggling and want them to do better,” says Awilda. “But parents need to be proactive. You are the most important person in your child’s life.” “I involve Sebby in everything – I can honestly say that he’s a joy to be around.”

This story was originally featured in our our 2015 annual report.

More Stories