In 2014, KVC Kentucky received a referral for a family interested in in-home behavioral health services for their 14-year-old son Pedro. Pedro had been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder at the age of 6, but his family lacked access to support services due to multiple environmental and cultural barriers. His mother Maria had immigrated to the United States when she was 8 months pregnant with Pedro and did not speak English. She lacked reliable transportation, her employer routinely denied her time off from work, and she had little recourse as an undocumented worker.
The Affordable Care Act enabled the family to receive in-home behavioral health services including therapy and case management from KVC Kentucky staff. During the initial clinical assessment, Maria said she blamed herself for her son’s condition and described him as “very odd”, stating how he never allowed her to hug or kiss him, take photographs of him, celebrate his birthday or talk to him in public.
Despite their troubled relationship, the family had tremendous strengths. Pedro was intelligent, eager to learn, fluent in both English and Spanish, and shared a caring and empathetic bond with his younger brother. Maria loved her son deeply and was willing to do the work needed to improve and heal their relationship. For three months, Maria, Pedro and his younger brother participated in in-home therapy sessions twice a week. A translator was present at every session. Each week, the family was assigned homework to practice social interactions while respecting the needs of each family member. Within the first two weeks, Pedro and his mother practiced giving each other high-fives as a mutually acceptable alternative to hugs and kisses. His mother started planning family activities that revolved around Pedro’s interests and strengths, as well as his difficulties with social anxiety and sensory integration.
Many firsts were celebrated by the family during the time they received services – Pedro’s first initiated hug with his mother; his first spoken “I love you;” and his first “I’m sorry.” Maria learned to be proud of Pedro and to accept his differences from other children his age. At the conclusion of treatment, Pedro and Maria expressed hope and optimism for his future and the future of the family. They even verbalized confidence in the family’s ability to solve and overcome problems down the road.
Anyone can make a referral for KVC Kentucky’s in-home and community-based Behavioral Health Services and Substance Abuse Treatment Programs including parents, community partners or other organizations. Click here to learn more.
*This winning story was received during our 2015 summer story contest by Eric Wilkinson, Comprehensive Community Support Associate Supervisor for KVC Kentucky. Client and family names were changed to protect confidentiality.