Wednesday, May 31, 2017

On track to graduate

DC is on track.  He’s graduating from Hazen Union High School in June, having successfully completed one year in the construction program at the Green Mountain Technical and Career Center (GMTCC).  His is hopeful that his part-time job at All Metals Recycling in Hardwick becomes full-time upon graduation. He’s a certified boxing trainer.  He comes from a family with a military background and plans to enlist in the coming year.
            At nineteen, DC stands 5’9” and 200 pounds.  “I like picking up heavy things,” he says with a hint of a laugh."  DC sorts and grades different metals at his job and prepares them for shipment.  “I’m a hands-on sort of guy.”
            DC’s participation in boxing seems a logical extension of his kinesthetic strengths.  He trains for and participates in bouts sponsored by the Northern New England Golden Gloves of Vermont.  He’s completed certification to be a trainer.  He’s presently training a 50-year-old man eager to learn the sport.
            DC speaks with fondness for his own trainer, Armand Geleno.  “He’s 89 and he has more heart than anyone I know.”
            School wasn’t always a positive experience for DC.  After encountering some difficulties, he was assigned a Behavioral Interventionist (BI) from Laraway’s Backpack Program to work with him in 7th grade at his public school. 
            “At first, I wasn’t too happy having someone with me at school,” he said.  “He did help me knuckle down and do my work.  It’s a really good support system, helping me to focus on my goals and what I need to do to achieve them.”
            Incentives are woven into the Backpack program.  Students who meet their goals during the week choose a fun activity to engage in with their BI.  DC particularly enjoyed ice fishing.  He remains an avid fisherman, fishing all the time.  Asked if he preferred a particular catch, he said, “Anything I can fry up” and then volunteered that brook trout sautéed with a bit of butter is especially good!
            As he reflects on his high school experience, DC is particularly proud of a project he worked on at GMTCC.  Students built a double-wide modular home.  He worked on the roofing, flooring and walls.
            “The building got done,” he said.  “Someone is currently living in it.”
            After graduation, DC plans to work full-time for a year and then enlist in the military.  He has family members who’ve served in the Army.
            “It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a long time,” DC said.  “It’s a chance to learn, to gain discipline.  It’s a good opportunity to give back.”
            "DC has been a pleasure to be able to work with and watch grow into a strong, funny, witty and charismatic young man," said Brittany Rogers, a Laraway Behavior Consultant.  "He has worked very hard in the past two years to prepare himself for this upcoming transition into independence.  I wish him the best and look forward to hearing about his successes when I see him in the future."
              "Since starting to work with DC, he has continued to show growth and demonstrate responsibility," said Laraway Case Manager Elysa Daily.  "Having been able to get connected with a job through Pathways at his school has really helped him to meet his goals and strive to be better!  We will all be sad to see DC transition out, but wish him the best of luck after he graduates!"

Monday, May 8, 2017

Alicia Stone, Clinical Intern: Giving youths space, to heal

            Alicia Stone has a crown tattooed on her finger.  It’s serves as a reminder that she, as young woman and aspiring professional, deserves to be treated well.
            Alicia, a student in the Master’s in Clinical Psychology Program at St. Michael’s College, has been interning under the supervision of Matt Sadowsky, Director of Laraway’s Clinical Program.  She earned an undergraduate degree from Johnson State College in 2010 and spent several summers working as a behavioral interventionist at Laraway.  She’s worked with a variety of age groups, but found a special affinity in working with kids.
            Alicia experienced some losses in her adolescence.  “I had some bad experiences with therapists when I was a teenager,” Alicia said.  “I want these kids to know that, whatever they’re facing, you CAN get to the other side.  Adolescents are a vulnerable population, between childhood and adulthood.  Rebellion is part of the process.”
            Alicia’s office is bright and cheerful with an image of a large, red heart on the wall.  There’s a stuffed animal---a brown bear---on her bookshelf and plenty of small manipulative toys to keep youthful hands busy while encouraging free-flowing, spontaneous chatter.
            When kids show up for therapy appointments, she may experience a variety of youthful emotions.  Some arrive ready to chat while engaging her in a game of Pokemon or a romp outside on Laraway’s 39-acre campus.  Others might be quiet, even sullen because of something that happened.  That’s when she gives them space.
            “You’re there for them, to hold their emotion,” she said.  “They don’t always like to let others in to help.”  This is when she might simply let them know she’s there if they want to talk.  Just being there, as a stable, supportive adult, can be helpful.
            Asked what she likes about interning at Laraway, Alicia smiled and said, “Every day is different.  Sometimes kids use you as a punching bag and, then, later, they’ll send some small message---a word or gesture---to let you know your relationship is still intact.”
            Alicia recognizes that therapists must carefully guard against vicarious trauma---becoming negatively impacted by the trauma experienced by their clients.  She takes time for self-care via yoga and a guided meditation app on her phone.  She sees value in her 30-minute commute to and from Laraway each day.  Her cats, Bolt, Callie and G (short for Giovanna) offer unconditional love.
            “Everyone should have some sense of unconditional love in their life,” Alicia said.
            Alicia’s 8-month clinical internship ends of June 5th and she’ll soon have a Master’s Degree in hand.  She’s thoughtfully planning “Termination”—the process of saying goodbye to clients and ending the therapeutic relationship.  Progress, growth and strengths are shared in conversation. There’s also a termination activity, planned with the client, to mark the passage.
            “You have to make an ending a positive experience,” Alicia said. 
            Reflecting on her experience at Laraway, Alicia said, “I highly respect Matt Sadowsky and strive to achieve the blend of both private and public sector work that he role models. He’s been a really great supervisor.  Actually, Matt and Mag (Sladyk-Benoit) have both offered me great insights when I’ve had questions.”
            “Interns like Alicia are the very reason we created Laraway’s Internship Program,” said Matt Sadowsky.  “She is bright, fun, and really interested in learning this craft.  Best of all, the youth that she worked with got to learn from her as she got to learn from them.  That’s one of the benefits of doing this work---we all get to be life-long learners.”
                We will miss Alicia and wish her well.  Her immediate plans are to study for the EPPP for Licensure and acquire full-time employment, working with kids, of course.
            What have the kids at Laraway taught Alicia?
            “PATIENCE,” she say, flashing her broad, beautiful smile.
            Thank you, Alicia, for showing Laraway’s kids that they, too, deserve to be treated well.