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How a game of H-O-R-S-E helped John learn success

March 15, 2011

A simple basketball game of H-O-R-S-E helped change John’s life.

When Youth Villages Family Intervention Specialist Jessica Mott first met John, he was curled up in the corner of a room, refusing to speak. The second time, John was clutching a baseball bat, threatening to hurt anyone who came near.

Mott calmed John down that day and began earning his trust. John likes outdoor activities, and things began to change when the counselor challenged him to a backyard game of H-O-R-S-E.

“At first, I didn’t ask him any questions,” Mott said. “We would just play basketball.”

The 14-year-old from Lynn, Mass., has serious emotional and behavioral problems that began to appear when he started Kindergarten. He would lash out physically and verbally, attacking his parents and teachers. His parents tried everything, but after long stays at several residential programs, John hadn’t been able to transition home.

Professionals in Youth Villages’ Intercept intensive in-home services program were assigned to help John make a successful transition home after an 18-month stay in a residential facility.

Over time, John looked forward to Mott’s visits three times a week. The games became the setting in which John would open up to his specialist.

“He told me what he was feeling, what he needed,” Mott said.

Mott was able to help John’s parents develop behavior plans with set rewards and consequences and consistency when handling the boy’s demands. She helped the couple build safety plans that kept the family and John safe in case of emotional outbursts.

“She really connected with him,” John’s mother said of Mott. “We’ve had plenty of therapists come into our home over the years, but none of the others reached him. She’s a hands-on type of therapist, and he loves that.”

Youth Villages Massachusetts provides intensive help for parents, many of whom have been dealing with their children’s severe behaviors alone. Often parents are forced to call the police for help when their children’s aggression becomes violent. Having a specialist available 24 hours a day, trained to help in crisis situations, has made a big difference to the family.

“With Youth Villages, if you have a problem, they’ll come out,” John’s mother said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s day or night.”

Mott worked with the family as they fought to get John into a more appropriate school setting.

“She came to every meeting we had with the school,” John’s mother said. “When he did transition to the new school, Jessica went with him and helped him feel comfortable and resolved any problems.”

The family discharged from Youth Villages’ in-home services last summer, and John’s behavior continues to improve. John earned Bs and Cs on his latest report card and has goals to be a plumber. In the meantime, he volunteers at an adult daycare center for individuals with mental disabilities and participates in an after-school program where he plays instruments, sings and dances.

Although the family was nervous about losing the relationship they developed with Mott, they remain confident the tools they learned during treatment have helped promote John’s success in the community.

“They are amazing parents,” Mott said. “They both work full-time jobs and have another son to care for, but they have stuck by John.”

One Comment leave one →
  1. yoko hurley permalink
    March 17, 2011 6:23 pm

    This is a great story, it is nice to see how far someone can go when all the right variables are in place. Great job to the specialist jess mott and the parents for all the support they have given john along the way.

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