When 14-year old Todd aimed for the basket at Bellefaire JCB’s gym and exuberantly yelled “slam-dunk!” the points scored registered well beyond the basketball court. The fact that Todd could successfully participate in a team sport, plus have a group of friends to play with, was not in Todd’s playbook when he came to Bellefaire’s residential campus two years ago.
Todd arrived at Bellefaire in pretty bad shape. His obvious physical and emotional disabilities were an immediate source of concern, but the root of these problems was the real heartbreaker.
Todd’s early years were a child’s worst nightmare. He suffered brain trauma as an infant after being badly beaten by one his mother’s boyfriends who repeatedly banged his head against the bathroom wall. Todd, along with his siblings, was also sexually abused both as an infant and as a toddler. The abuse happened under his mother’s watch and later his grandparents’.
“Early childhood abuse is so damaging because a child does not have the words to express this preverbal trauma,” says Stephanie, Bellefaire’s Director of Residential Treatment. “This experience is indelibly lodged in the memory and surfaces in the form of flashbacks,
depression and physical symptoms.”
As if the emotional and physical abuse wasn’t enough, Todd arrived with scoliosis, a neck injury that forced him to tilt his head to one side, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), mild retardation, suicidal tendencies, a propensity towards profanity and pervasive developmental disorder.
A hopeless case? Not according to Mike, the cottage unit supervisor who first met Todd. “During our initial intake we took immediate note of Todd’s physical issues and set his medical care in motion,” said Mike. Todd had a series of MRIs, blood tests and saw orthopedic specialists at a local hospital.
The tests and examinations revealed that scoliosis was causing Todd chronic pain, he had a
hairline fracture in the base of his spine and his neck problems needed to be corrected with physical therapy. Todd’s auditory and sensory issues were also aggressively addressed.
With Todd’s medical, physical and emotional issues closely monitored and treated, staff began to see improvement. “Todd was not in constant pain so he begin to relax a little, and could enjoy sports and other low impact activities,” said Mike. “And as we worked on his sensory issues he began to feel more at ease in larger groups.”
The integrative care approach also helped boost Todd’s self-esteem. He completed tasks like folding laundry without argument and was a classroom helper. His efforts were praised and slowly his permanent scowl was exchanged for an occasional smile. When Todd was given a volunteer award he held it high in the air and then hugged Mike. “Oh, I’m so happy,” he said.
“It was incredibly gratifying to see Todd express such positive emotion,” said Mike. “He had a lot of insight and an innate capacity for happiness but never before had the means to express what he was feeling.”
When Todd left Bellefaire he was placed in a foster care home where he is now doing “great,” said Mike. “This was one of those cases where you feel like you gave a kid their childhood back. Todd was able to be a kid again. And that’s something he came very close to missing.”
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