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Family exhausts options for help, finds success for Abby through therapy in their home

May 23, 2012

Abby, right, with her mother, Michele

Abby was a handful. Precocious, energetic and playful, she would also have tantrums.

Severe tantrums.

Her mother, Michele, and the rest of the family had done about all they could do.

“Abby was the mellowest baby in the world, and then she gradually turned into this little Tasmanian devil,” Michele said. “She was off the wall loud and demanded so much. Before she turned 3 years old, she was full-blown out of control.”

Michele and her family were unfazed, but they needed help. When Abby entered kindergarten, Michele was told Abby needed medication for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and oppositional defiant disorder. A psychiatrist prescribed medication, and to Michele, Abby just wasn’t Abby any more.

“She was up and down like a roller coaster,” Michele said. “She was just miserable.”

After taking Abby, 11, off the medication, Michele and her family decided on intense counseling services. They tried different programs, but nothing worked. In fact, she said it became worse.

Meaghan Mayeda is a family intervention specialist for Youth Villages-ChristieCare of Oregon. And from the first time Meaghan visited Abby’s home, Michele said she knew this time would be different.

“It was obvious,” Michele said. “Meaghan’s so passionate about what she does, and the kids absolutely loved her.”

Meaghan visited the home at least three times per week, working with Michele and her husband, Zeb, on parenting skills training, and then meeting with Abby at least once a week. In addition to the parenting skills, Meaghan worked with Abby on identifying triggers to her tantrums and how to regulate her emotions. They discussed coping strategies for maintaining positive behaviors and the parents became more aware of Abby’s behavior and how to handle different situations.

“She walked us through it,” Michele said. “She told us ‘This is why you’re doing this and this is how it works.’ When you’re in the heat of the moment, you can forget, so you have to take a step back. It was an ‘aha’ moment for us.”

After a few training sessions with the parents, Meaghan turned her focus more to Abby. She used drawings of overlapping bubbles for Abby to identify thoughts, feelings and behaviors. She helped Abby create a book with those drawings, along with coping strategies for maintaining positive behaviors.

Abby has three sisters.

“They’re a great family with super-great kids,” Meaghan said. “The whole family needed to be more aware of what was happening so they could identify what was going on with Abby.”

Michele and Zeb still struggle, as any family with small children would. Michelle’s convinced Abby would not be at home if it weren’t for Meaghan.

“We felt she really cared, and Abby’s success really meant something to her,” Michele said. “If we didn’t succeed at something, she didn’t blame us. We just tried another way.”

Abby completed the Intercept program in December. The family had a party with Meaghan. At the end, they had a story time, where Abby shared her book. Michele said the family is still a work in process, and there are more good days than bad.

“It takes the whole family to make it right,” Michele said. “We’re getting there. But Abby is happy. To hear her in the bedroom playing with her sisters, it’s as if she just grew up in half a year.”

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