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JEWISH FAMILY SERVICE OF COLORADO INC's Fundraiser:

Support Mental Health in Schools-Kids need therapy too!

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THE STORY:

No one knew…

Three years ago, then seven-year-old Liam Dunkin was a first grader at Ashley Elementary School in east Denver. He was exhibiting behaviors that were disruptive and aggressive, which impacted others and limited his ability to learn. Fits of rage…threatening his classmates... sensitivity to touch and sound…and not responding to normal social cues were some of the behaviors that were bringing Liam negative attention.

Something was wrong. Liam’s parents didn’t know what to do. He had already been to two previous schools and Ashley Elementary was his second placement as a 1st grader.

Kate Seymour Andres, a JFS KidSuccess school-based counselor at Ashley, recognized Liam’s behaviors as possible symptoms of Asperger’s disorder. She encouraged his parents to have him evaluated. In 2011, after a psychological assessment, it was confirmed that Liam indeed has Asperger’s—a less intensive form of autism.

While the family was initially hesitant to have Liam labeled with a diagnosis, it was the beginning of an important life journey for the family. Liam could begin to understand his issues and take steps to overcome them. He’s working on his interactions with others and controlling his emotions. His family better understands the causes of Liam’s limitations and triggers, and knows how to manage them. And having a diagnosis provided a common starting point for discussions with other caregivers.

As a result of his diagnosis, Liam received an individualized education plan at his school and now receives daily support, both academically and emotionally. He has weekly sessions with the school psychologist, who works on behavior goals with him. He participates in a fun “lunch bunch” group with Kate and some of his friends, where they practice social skills. Kate also provides individual therapy for Liam every week, so he can talk through his feelings and understand how to handle triggers that upset him.

With a strong support system in place, Liam has made huge strides at school. He is active in school acting and music classes and has made a number of close friends. Although he continues to need daily support, he’s performing much better. Most important, Liam feels understood and supported.

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