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Story of Impact – Helen Ross McNabb

Robby* was 5 years old when he came to Helen Ross McNabb for his intake. Robby’s school had recommended that he receive a behavioral assessment because he was acting out in class. Robby would scream, cry, hit his peers, and disrupt class with large outbursts. Although Robby’s mom was supportive and nurturing, she was also seeing this behavior at home.  Through the assessment process, it was identified that Robby had witnessed severe domestic violence by his biological father who was currently serving time in prison.  Robby had learned how to behave while angry by watching his father at home and would mimic that behavior in other places. He would be physically violent with teachers and children at school, have uncontrollable outbursts in class, and suffer extreme separation anxiety when away from his mother.  Robby’s mother was overwhelmed by Robby’s behavior and with the feedback she received from the school, so she reached out to Helen Ross McNabb for help. She was willing to do as much as she could to help Robby cope with his previous traumatic experiences.

Robby was diagnosed with Adjustment Disorder with Mixed Disturbance of Emotions and Conduct and was referred to the Therapeutic Preschool Intensive Outpatient Program in addition to case management and therapy. In Therapeutic Preschool, he began group treatment to help learn how to identify and express his emotions, effectively communicate his needs and wants, increase age appropriate social skills, learn ways to cope with what he had been through, and understand how to identify safe adults. Robby made friends in the program and he continued to make progress by finding appropriate ways to express his anger and frustration.  Robby initially struggled to comprehend why his father was not considered a “safe-adult”. By the end of the program, Robby was able to understand that although he could still love his father, his father did not always make safe choices. He practiced positive interactions with peers and adults and learned new coping skills to use in other settings. Robby’s mother also found support through Therapeutic Preschool staff by attending Parent Meetings with other parents who were experiencing similar situations. Within a week of beginning the program, Robby began to make improvements at school and at home.

Robby successfully completed his individualized treatment goals and continues to use his skills today. Since completion of the program, Robby developed a better, more secure relationship with his mom, and has developed skills in understanding and expressing his needs and emotions.  He now asks for help from teachers and peers instead of using aggression or lashing out. Robby continues to meet with a case manager on a weekly basis for care coordination between home and school as he starts first grade.  He has decreased visits with his therapist due to his success of meeting his individual treatment goals. He is no longer aggressive with others and has made great progress in learning how to regulate his emotions. With the love and support of his mom and the staff at Helen Ross McNabb, Robby can continue to progress towards a healthy and productive life.

United Way of Greater Knoxville is proud to support programs like the Helen Ross McNabb’s Therapeutic Preschool Intensive Outpatient Program that make a difference for children and families in our community. At United Way, we fight for the health, education, and financial stability of every person in our community because we know that change doesn’t happen alone. To live better, we must LIVE UNITED.

*Name changed to protect confidentiality of the client