“Something was different about him” – Luke’s Story

I am the parent of a child with bipolar disorder, impulse control disorder and anxiety. Ours was a world filled with confusion, unhappiness and emotional chaos. From the time my son, Luke, was a toddler, I knew that something was different about him. He would become very sad and violent from time to time; other times, he acted very loud and silly – “wild” would be a fitting term. Then, there were times when a very intelligent, loving, charming, sweet child would appear. I never knew from one minute to the next how his moods could change so drastically. Trying to tie discipline into this irrational behavior was a nightmare!

We struggled for years to work things out. Doctors couldn’t or wouldn’t help, daycare centers and schools expelled him, and no one else seemed to understand what was happening and why I couldn’t control it all.

When Luke started kindergarten, his teacher and the school staff suggested he be checked for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). After the testing, Luke’s pediatrician diagnosed him with ADHD and put him on a stimulant drug called Adderall; however, Luke’s behavior and moodiness worsened over the following year.

One new school district, two doctors and three daycare centers later, Luke started first grade. His behavior worsened at home and deteriorated at school. Things were so hard. Discipline had lost all meaning to him, there was no compliance, only constant yelling and tears of frustration. Luke would write on paper how he thought he was “ugly” and “bad” and how he no longer wanted to live because he had no friends and no one loved him.

Heartbroken over my son’s depression and on the verge of depression myself, I once again contacted a psychologist for help. I had been doing my own research and my fears were confirmed when the doctor agreed that Luke’s problem was not ADHD as we initially feared. He was in fact suffering from childhood onset bipolar disorder, with an impulse control disorder and major anxiety.

The school tried to help as best they knew how. We found a psychiatrist to help with medication and a therapist to help sort things out and give me strategies to reform his behavior. Luke was put on Depakote to treat his illness. During the early course of treatment, Luke’s behavior worsened and his attitude toward life hit an all-time low.

Luke was admitted to the hospital after attempting to end his own life. My little boy was only 6 years old. After just 3 days in the hospital, the doctors sent him home because they didn’t want to fight the insurance companies. They didn’t really help at all.

After that, I kept Luke out of daycare centers (one sent him home after only 3 hours because they thought he was a risk to others), and he had to go to an alternative form of schooling (which did not help him either). I had run out of resources, and I had no additional time-off from work to help my child. I thought things would never improve.

I found the program that would change our lives! I had seen a listing for Behaven Kids in the phone book once, but things were so bad at the time I thought there was no way anyone would take him in. A desperate phone call to a respite center put me in touch with the director of Behaven Kids. I thought for sure that after she heard my story and spent one afternoon with my son, she would turn us away as everyone else had done.

Miraculously, Behaven Kids welcomed Luke and me to the center, and they promised to never turn us away. The staff worked very hard for both of us. The support and strength I received was incredible. Luke started to show signs of improvement within the first week of treatment. The improvement was so drastic that I discontinued sessions with the therapist (who really wasn’t helping at all) and relied solely on the psychiatrist and Behaven Kids for help. What an amazing summer! The staff and I talked so frequently they became the largest part of our daily lives, keeping me strong and motivated, taking over if I needed a break.

Late that summer, Luke was taken off of Depakote and given Lithium in addition to his Risperdal. The staff watched Luke very closely to monitor his physical and emotional health. It was like having a completely different child! Luke’s mood swings had subsided and his anger was under control. Add that to his rapidly improving behavior skills … a la Behaven Kids and I had a son that I could enjoy life with.

No more struggling for control, no more screaming and crying, no more sleepless nights and no more battles of any kind! Behaven Kids helped me get Luke mainstreamed into a public school and the staff is still present and helpful in his transition. Just recently I decided to take Luke off the Risperdal to see how that would affect him, hoping that he wouldn’t have to take it again. The Behaven Kids staff was right there, supporting my decision, charting Luke’s behaviors and helping Luke maintain his new level of acceptable behavior.

Behaven Kids never gave up on us, if anything the staff fought harder than anyone else I’ve ever known, and I know they will be there for as long as we need them. I don’t think my son would have survived the last year. In fact, I know he wouldn’t be where he is now if it hadn’t been for Behaven Kids and its staff. They helped Luke and me in unimaginable ways!

Luke loves Behaven Kids and its staff. He feels safe and loved and respected within the center. Luke has many friends now, he’s on a local wrestling team and he’s doing exceptionally well in school! Luke is happy for the first time in his life. He is glad to be alive and enjoys himself and the things around him, and I am happy, too. I am finally starting to relax and enjoy being a parent by getting to know the brighter side of my son. Everyone comments on Luke’s new behavior and outlook on his life, including teachers, doctors, friends and family. Even some of the nursing staff and receptionists we see during our frequent doctor visits and people at our local grocery store have noticed the huge difference in Luke. They all comment on his amazing transformation.

Behaven Kids has given us gifts far greater than I ever expected. I know that my son’s illness is lifelong and our lives will be filled with highs and lows, but I am not as terrified as I once was because Behaven Kids will be there for us. No matter what the situation, I know they will be able to help.

Luke and I thank staff at Behaven Kids. Really, there are no words for how grateful we are. I can’t express how grateful I am for the level of peace and happiness they have helped us achieve. I can’t imagine how our lives would be without Behaven Kids.