Joanna was adopted by her grandmother when she was 2 ½ years old. Her mother is an alcoholic who had seriously abused her, and her father has not been a part of her life since she was 4 years old.
By the time she began public school in Riverside, she was a very angry child. With memories of being burned by her mother, left in the back seat of a car while her mother drank, and forced to sleep in a drawer in a bureau, her anger grew into rage and she became unmanageable at school.
She frequently skipped classes, would not study and, as she recently recalled, “...had no fear of getting into trouble.” Her failure in public school was inevitable.
“I felt like it did not matter because no one cared about me, not my teachers, not my parents, no one,” Joanna said in an interview.
The school recommended that she see the therapists at Bradley Hospital. It was determined that she was suffering from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and reactive attachment disorder. She began therapy sessions and was put on medication.
But her emotional wounds ran very deep, and when she was 13 years old, she brought a knife into school and was expelled. Her depression was getting worse. One day she blacked out and afterwards threatened to commit suicide. It was then that she was admitted to Bradley Hospital as an inpatient.
After seven days of intensive therapy and medication management, it became clear that Joanna needed the special teaching and therapeutic environment found in The Bradley School.
There are four Bradley Schools in Rhode Island for children whose psychiatric and behavioral needs cannot be met in public schools. The schools have small classes with skilled special education teachers and a staff of classroom behavioral specialists.
At first Joanna was uncomfortable at her new school until she realized that it was very different from the public school she had gone to before.
There is individual help and a therapist or counselor available whenever she feels she needs to speak to one. The people she talks to listen and understand.
During therapy sessions, Joanna is encouraged to keep a journal of her thoughts and to write letters to her parents as a means of venting her anger towards them, even if the letters are never sent.
She also works on other strategies to deal with her anger such as yelling into her pillow, taking walks, counting backwards and listening to her MP3 player.
Mostly, though, she now is surrounded by people who really care about her...something she has rarely felt before in her young life.
Through therapy and The Bradley School, she has gone from a failing student who was suicidal, to an A+ student who has dreams of going to college to become a veterinarian. She is now 17 years old, with a gentle disposition. Her grandmother attended many of her therapy sessions, and they now have a better understanding of each other and a very caring relationship.
Clearly, Bradley has helped Joanna put her damaged life back together. Summing up Joanna’s progress at Bradley, one of the specialists who worked with her says, “She has blossomed, not only physically but emotionally during her treatment tenure at Bradley. She is now able to engage in conversation, has markedly improved self-esteem and is proud of her many accomplishments at school and at home.”
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