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From hard tale to hugs: Harley works to overcome severe pediatric bipolar disorder

January 19, 2013
Harley sits outside his home with his mother, Dana.

Harley sits outside his home with his mother, Dana.

There were times when Harley’s mother, Dana, wondered if they’d make it through the night.

“We always slept with one eye open,” she said.

Re-Education of Emotionally Disturbed Youth (Re-ED)
Youth Villages’ residential treatment campuses provide intensive mental health treatment based on the Re-Education of Emotionally Disturbed Youth (Re-ED) therapy model. A structured routine helps children settle into a regulated lifestyle with clearly set expectations and a system of rewards and consequences. Emphasizing accomplishments and competence-building activities, Re-ED reinforces positive behavior changes and allows children to build trusting relationships with their counselors, teachers and other adults.

In fact, she knew something was wrong when Harley was only 5 years old. He began having violent outbursts, throwing and breaking things.

He had no regard for his safety, and Dana didn’t know when it would happen.

“The more structured the environment, the more Harley fell apart,” she said. “He would try to jump out of the car when the wrong song was playing.”

He was referred to the Youth Villages-Inner Harbour Campus. It was there Harley worked with Residential Counselor Charmaine Simmons.

Harley, 12, was diagnosed with severe pediatric bipolar disorder and also exhibited some symptoms of personality disorder with ADHD and oppositional defiant disorder tendencies.

“Harley was a great kid and needed a lot of work and attention when he first came here,” Charmaine said. “We worked on setting boundaries and learning coping skills to handle his frustration.”

That coupled with proper medications set Harley on a path of change. His mother and father visited the scenic campus regularly, where they would go fishing at the Youth Villages-Inner Harbour’s pond. Sometimes they would take Harley to a public park.

“Harley’s parents have really worked hard to get through this situation and create a safe home for Harley,” Charmaine said. “We also showed the family how to handle situations and make sure their son was safe.”

When he went to Youth Villages-Inner Harbour, Harley didn’t want to be touched.

Dana said his behavior seemed to change overnight. Now it’s different at home.

As Harley’s time at Youth Villages-Inner Harbour came to an end, his mother said he would give her hugs and hold her hand. He’s come back to the family, so to speak, giving everyone peace of mind.

“I used to feel so disconnected from Harley because I didn’t recognize what he was doing,” Dana said. “Now, we know when Harley needs to be alone and when he’s ready for others.”

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