Child L, Part I
Child L was an amazing child to encounter. One thing for sure was that this was a confident child with a wide range of personality features that you either celebrated or feared. Celebrated because this was a wise and street-smart child. Feared as a result of the explosive nature that occurred at random when interacting with this child. Everything would seem perfectly fine with great communication and suddenly, this child would destroy an entire building out of the blue. Initially, warning signs of agitation were unnoticeable but that changed overtime as more of this child’s personality began to show. Establishing a positive rapport and with a lot of patience, this child became comfortable but with that compassion derived bouts of anger, sadness, temper tantrums, and physical and verbal aggression.
While communicating with Child L, his or her mind shifted quickly more than likely due to this child understanding “the system.” You see, it was easy for Child L to determine what to say and how to say it to prevent the consequences of Child L’s actions. More specifically, this child knew how to refrain from hospitalizations and other mental health interventions. Honestly, I was pretty impressed not only with this child’s intellect, but manipulative tactics. You had to see it. However, I would always welcome Child L's natural curiosity, intelligence, and conversations. This was no mental health rookie, but the downfall of that frame of mine was that this the type of advantage prevented Child L from getting needed mental health assistance. Believe me, this was one child that I encountered who needed a significant amount of mental health treatment, including hospitalization. Each time, however, this child would verbally escape all of it and grew better and better at personal gain.
Enter Dr. Lisa
Now, I am no saint or perfect in the least bit, but there was a certain way that I dealt with Child L. It was noticeable by Child L's parents who shared with me that I am the only person who Child L did not disrespect. I swear it's a gift that I do not take credit for at all! What I did know was that typical conversations did not work to restore Child L when Child L's mind was to harm and physical behaviors were aggressive. Parental and school guidance was a moot point because those effects proved useless up again this child. Not to mention, this child was not afraid of the police either, and welcomed their presence which was a good thing. I observed this child many times and saw an eye gaze of defiance and a, “I win” each time services were denied. Of course, it caused the parent to feel helpless and also angry because it seemed as if,
No one will listen to the parental concerns
However, there were plenty of us listening who wanted the same assistance. The problem was the broken system and not the frontline people trying to help. After long observations, listening to others, and watching parents cry, I decided to make some telephone calls. Sometimes, it is not what you say but how you say it. It’s also a matter of knowing what to say in the moment of a crisis that can some fire under other professions. Fire meaning to get them to understand the seriousness of the behaviors, ideations, and/or circumstances which is what I did on behalf of this mother. Instead of allowing mental health workers to chat with their superiors themselves, I called them in that moment. Believe me, they appreciate communication and even made me feel better about calling them instead of text and emails. It takes a village. When I spoke to them, it allowed them to “feel” what was happening, reframe it in their minds, view documentation, and recognize the significant attempts at assisting Child L. Based upon those extended conversations, this child was hospitalized. No magic wand, just making phone calls and thoroughly explaining why Child L should be hospitalized. It was the best outcome for Child L although it made me sad.
You can only try to help; know when to let go.
I had to let Child L go and be served by hospital staff. That is hard for me, but sometimes it is best and they are equipped to handle children with this level of physical aggression. Appreciate hospital staff folks! (Thank you)
We always need to give children a chance to reset themselves after a hospitalization or crisis. They are not adults or machines and need time to process and to adjust back into their environments. The tragedy in Child L’s case is that this meant becoming a runaway or using drugs. I think I forgot to mention the drug factor which was huge in Child L’s life when the money and availability arose on the streets. That’s always sad for me to learn as a mom and someone who cares for children. I have my weaknesses and learning about children using drugs bothers me, even recreationally. The point is, taking the time to transition from the hospitalization back to home and school did not work for Child L. Child L felt free along with free time to do whatever Child L wanted, despite the risk of emotional (or drug) relapse.
In that transition, Child L also attended school under the use of drugs and refused to comply with school rules and directives from adults upon return. This was a cycle that occurred each and every day which caused a strain for Child L’s parents and school officials. More hospitalizations followed and what I thought would be best for Child L was to attend an alternative school in a residential treatment center. Child L was not a good fit for the general education program, and did not benefit educationally from any interventions that the school could utilize to help with academic grades and behaviors. The only thing that did work to improve Child L’s behaviors and temperament even for a moment, was hospitalization.
Child L, A Nebulous Child
Are you paying attention? Listen, in the middle of working to get Child L hospitalized someone whispered to me, “Child L can see ghosts.” I did not say anything, I just looked at the person. I continued to discuss hospitalization with others. Later on, the person said in front of the parents, “I told Dr. Lisa that Child L can see ghosts.” The parents immediately shared that Child L has seen ghosts since Child L was a tiny child, but that they could see ghosts too.
Side Bar: This is when I get stunned; when these conversations happen at random, and people tell me about it.
The parents told me all about the entity that Child L played with as a toddler, and how they used to see it as well. They continued to mention how they were suspicious that Child L started seeing the ghosts again after Child L’s behaviors started to decline again. They said that they used to leave the lights on for Child L to feel comfortable falling asleep at night, and how Child L would only sleep in their rooms at times. These parents provided me with a description of some of these ghosts, but there was one in particular who remained with Child L. That ghost is the one who they believe interacts with Child L to the point of behaving poorly and numbing the sightings with using drugs. I sat and listened for a long time to all of their details quietly. I never asked for those details or anything pertaining to a conversation about seeing ghosts. I did not even think about it which is typically the case for me, nor did I pursue the conversation any further than the parents telling me everything about their own abilities and Child L's. It gets interesting!
I took it all in and compared notes to past Nebulous Children's stories...