Tony and his mother Carole were referred to A Child’s Haven (ACH) when Tony was four years old. They came from an abusive background and because of their trauma history, Tony had extreme behavioral issues. During their intake appointment, Carole told the Child and Family Therapist (CFT) that Tony could have up to 12 tantrums a day. She also said that when her son was upset, he became very aggressive. Tony’s tantrums would often escalate to physical outbursts like pushing the tv over or punching and kicking his mother or siblings. Carole was desperate and confided, “I don’t even know where to begin.” The CFT reassured Carole that she was making a great start by coming to ACH and that the treatment would help Tony and the entire family.
During Tony’s first week at ACH, he was not responsive to the treatment providers in the room. When asked questions or given tasks, Tony would turn around and ignore them or would start throwing toys. The treatment providers searched to find productive ways for Tony to channel his negative energy. Tony began gravitating towards the bubbles and asked the providers to blow bubbles for him when he was getting upset.
Along with the group treatment, Tony and his mother also worked with their CFT at ACH during their Individual Therapy and Family Therapy sessions. Their therapist focused on specific topics to help Tony progress. Through play therapy, the therapist acted out situations with toys and dolls, helping Tony understand how to recognize emotions and how to communicate them to his peers and family members. Another strategy the therapist gave Tony was a stress ball. She worked with him, practicing the motion of squeezing and releasing the ball. This simple strategy, along with blowing bubbles, helped Tony work through his anger and frustration.
The therapist also helped Carole set behavioral expectations and implement consistent routines to help Tony. Carole began putting special emphasis on praising Tony instead of constantly yelling or disciplining him. Ignoring some of Tony’s negative behaviors and making a bigger deal out of his positive behaviors encouraged Tony to repeat positive behaviors.
Over the course of a year, Tony’s tantrums and outbursts declined significantly. His siblings began playing with him more, and Carole reported that there was a lot less yelling in their home. Tony successfully transitioned to a 5K program when he was discharged from ACH. He’s doing well, but ACH is always here to help if the family needs us again.