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“Bradley saved our lives.”
Those heartfelt words are the first thing Beth Abbott tells anyone when talking about her son Alex’s stay last year in the inpatient unit of the Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities (CADD).
As educators and experienced parents, Beth and Jim Abbott were as prepared as anyone could be to meet the needs of their second child when Alex was diagnosed at birth with Down syndrome.
However, something else was clearly going on. While children with Down syndrome are generally even-tempered, Alex would have outbursts that became more aggressive and disruptive as he got older.
The family visited numerous doctors near their home in Syracuse, New York searching for help and answers.
“By the time Alex was 16, he was all aggression,” Beth recalls. “He was damaging property and lashing out at classmates. He hit my husband and tried to push me down the stairs. We never knew when his fuse would blow and what collateral damage would ensue.” Beth adds, “I don’t think he knew what he was doing. He was consumed with anxiety and had all these physical, emotional, and hormonal things going on that he didn’t understand and couldn’t control.”
In the fall of 2014, 16-year-old Alex ended up in the local hospital’s emergency room in an extremely agitated state. “We were essentially told that they didn’t have the training to handle him,” Beth remembers.
That same day, having heard about Bradley Hospital’s work, the Abbotts reached out to the Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities and were assured the CADD team could help Alex.
The inpatient unit is part of the comprehensive CADD program which provides highly specialized clinical services for children and adolescents who exhibit signs of serious emotional and behavioral problems as well as a developmental disability.
The CADD inpatient unit became Alex’s home for the next six months.
When more than one condition is involved, an interdisciplinary approach is needed. Alex’s team of specialists discovered that, in addition to Down syndrome and Autism Spectrum Disorder, Alex is also bi-polar.
As is the case with all Bradley Hospital programs, the family is an integral part of the treatment. Henry Sachs, MD, Medical Director of Bradley Hospital and a clinical assistant professor in the department of psychiatry and human behavior at Brown University’s Warren Alpert School of Medicine explains, “It is important to work with the family. We can stabilize the child in the hospital, but they have to live in the world. A major goal is to help the child and family transition back to the home and community.”
This approach made all the difference for Alex and his family. Beth recalls, “You come in like a lost soul, but you leave with a better understanding of how to manage your child’s behavior. Bradley gave us knowledge that will serve us throughout Alex’s life and help us make decisions that are best for him and the family. Bradley will always be a part of us.”
Alex now lives in a residential program near his family. He has made friends and is doing work he is proud of. He enjoys visiting his family but is always happy to go back to his new home and life.
“Bradley gave our family a great gift,” says Beth. “Alex is reaching his potential and even exceeding it. I don’t know if he would have gotten there without Bradley.”