Gratitude Stories - Izzy
Bradley Hospital Helps Izzy Get Back on Track
The milestone of a child starting preschool is often a joyous, yet bittersweet occasion for parents. As they see their little ones gain independence and make new friends, it also marks a new chapter in life. Unfortunately, when Amy’s daughter Izzy started school, it was anything but a joyful time.
As her classmates played and learned contentedly, four-year-old Izzy would often become nonverbal, using screaming, moaning, and physical outbursts to express her discomfort. The episodes often occurred when the little girl was frustrated with things such challenging learning tasks.
Izzy’s behavior at school regularly became so dysregulated that her teachers needed to call Amy to ask her to pick Izzy up early.
“It was very disruptive and frustrating,” Amy says. “And we didn’t know how to help her.”
By the time she was in kindergarten, the calls home became more frequent. “She was hitting teachers on a daily basis to the point where she actually got suspended one time,” Amy recalls.
Izzy’s pediatrician diagnosed her with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a mental health condition that involves symptoms related to inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. The family tried outpatient therapy and medication prescribed by the pediatrician, but her disruptive behavior continued.
As Izzy wrapped up kindergarten and readied for first grade, Amy knew her daughter needed more intensive help. “We had exhausted our options with the pediatrician, and I had a feeling that something more was going on,” Amy says.
Last July, Izzy entered Bradley Hospital’s Pediatric Partial Hospital Program (PPHP), which offers comprehensive treatment and evaluation during the day and allows patients to spend the evenings at home with their families.
Right away, Izzy’s clinicians noticed that she exhibited some anxiety-related symptoms, which had previously gone undetected.
“One of the challenges for us with the young children is figuring out what’s driving some of the symptoms we’re seeing,” said Katherine Partridge, PsyD, one of Izzy’s psychologists. “Izzy came to us with an ADHD diagnosis, and we quickly said, ‘yes, that fits, but we don’t think that explains everything that’s happening.’ The anxiety piece was a helpful layer of understanding.”
Izzy’s treatment for ADHD and generalized anxiety disorder included milieu and behavioral therapy, family therapy with her parents, parent-child interaction work, speech and occupational therapy consultation, and medication management.
Her treatment team learned that her anxiety was alleviated when she gained a sense of what to expect in various scenarios. To lessen uncertainty, they used a visual schedule with her at the hospital and helped plan a bedtime routine for her parents to implement at home.
Izzy also worked on attunement to her body when difficult emotions came up. “A lot of her episodes ended with her recognizing, oh, I need to go to the bathroom, or I need a drink of water,” Dr. Partridge says. “It was a helpful way for her to redirect her energy, and we would talk about it after.”
About a month and a half into treatment, Amy started seeing noticeable improvements in her daughter’s functioning. She was better able to communicate her needs — for instance, saying, “I need a break” — and her non-verbal outbursts became less frequent.
Figuring out the best medication plan for Izzy took some time, but once they did, it was a “big breakthrough,” as Amy describes it.
The medication further stabilized her mood and behaviors, and she was able to “graduate” from Bradley in October, three months after entering the program.
Now, at age six, Izzy is doing so well that she has been able to move from a special needs setting into a general first grade classroom at her school.
“The reports I’m getting from her teachers and school psychologists is that she’s almost like a different kid than she was last year,” Amy says.
Amy says her experience affirms how important it is for parents to never give up on advocating for their children, especially when things get difficult. Some friends and family told her that Izzy would just “grow out of it.” But she knew something more was going on.
“Things just didn’t feel right, and, as a mom, I just had to keep pursing it, starting with the pediatrician and the schools, and eventually getting more help at Bradley,” Amy says.
She adds: “I’ve seen such a big difference in my daughter. Thanks to Bradley, I feel like I have my child back.”