Knowledge is power, but the journey to find it can often leave a person feeling discouraged and exhausted. The right information and resources are out there, and seeking them out can be an enduring process, but as Rebecca tells us, “Keep fighting, and never take no for an answer.”
Rebecca is the mother of two young children. Her first child was born in perfect health. Her second child Max, however, seemed to be developing differently than her first child. Beginning at about 18 months, Rebecca noticed that he was very aggressive. A child of that age is unable to speak, but his facial expressions and the way he screamed seemed to suggest that he was angry.
Max’s aggression did not level out as he got older. By the age of three or four, he was having about 10 fits a day. When asked to explain the fits in some detail, Rebecca’s voice lowered to a whisper as she painfully reminisced about the magnitude of her son’s behaviours. She explained that she couldn’t go near him at times, and would just wait in another room for the fit to pass. “He could never really hurt me because he was just a child,” added Rebecca, “but there was no reasoning behind it, and I couldn’t stop it.”
Rebecca tried to find insight into her son’s condition, but she made little progress. She made numerous visits to specialists, but they had no answers for her.
“He’s just a boy,” people kept telling Rebecca, excusing Max’s behaviour as a masculine trait. As a mother, however, Rebecca knew that her son wasn’t just ‘being a boy’ and she wasn’t ready to give up her search for answers.
After a few phone calls to his new school with warnings about four-year-old Max’s behaviour, Rebecca took her son to his first day of Junior Kindergarten. As she had predicted, the school could not control Max’s outbursts.
At around this time, Rebecca was introduced to Dr. Mitchell from the Child and Parent Resource Institute (CPRI). Dr. Mitchell facilitated meetings with Max’s school, but the school simply could not adapt to Max’s unique needs. Through the instructions of Dr. Mitchell, five-year-old Max then began school at Madeline Hardy, a school on the CPRI grounds that facilitates the needs of children with mental and developmental challenges. Here, Max was under the care of professionals, and the results were noticeable. In fact, he was discharged from the school after just one year because his aggression seemed to disappear. “The year he spent there, the staff never saw an inkling of aggression from him,” explained Rebecca. “He never even looked mean.”
During his year at Madeline Hardy, Max’s behaviour at home improved as well. He went from having about 10 fits a day to less than half of that. The numbers continue to decrease for the now eight-year-old Max, who has about one fit every two weeks.
Throughout Rebecca’s experience at CPRI and Madeline Hardy, Max’s diagnoses accumulated. He was diagnosed with epilepsy, a mild intellectual disability, and deep cerebral seizures. However, there is still no known name for Max’s problem with aggression. The specialists simply did the best they could with the information that they had, and the effects were tremendous.
Rebecca learned through Dr. Mitchell that unexplainable, heat of the moment reactions can occur for anyone, and it is difficult to pinpoint why a particular behaviour was administered. Although ‘heat of the moment’ occurs more often for Max than for other people, there is usually an internal need that wants to be met. Now Rebecca asks, “What do you need?” instead of “Why are you doing that?” when Max begins to aggress.
Despite his battle with aggression, Rebecca learned that her son is a very affectionate boy through Dr. Mitchell’s advice. The next time Max began pulling and twisting his mother’s fingers, a signal for upcoming aggression, Rebecca asked him, “What do you need?”
Max paused to reflect on the question, looked up at Rebecca, and responded, “I need a hug.”
Rebecca explains to us that she gives full credit to CPRI and Madeline Hardy for Max’s progress. Her pace quickens and her voice perks up as she tells us how much it all means to her. She tells us about the positive relationships she has created, and the continual support she receives. “Max hasn’t been at Madeline Hardy for two years now, but I can still talk to them at any time,” Rebecca praises.
“It’s important to let people know that these facilities exist,” continues Rebecca. “A lot of people need help and can’t find it.” With her story of endurance and determination, Rebecca hopes to inspire other parents in similar situations to just keep fighting.