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“Mixed Up” No More

Sally*, a seven year old living with a foster family, works with the System of Care program in southern Illinois. The System of Care (SOC) program provides Sally and her family with extra skills and supports needed to address Sally’s behavior problems. As happens with children in foster care, Sally experienced heightened anxiety when preparing for a visit with her biological mom and siblings. Sally also experienced anxieties in the classroom, explaining that her head often felt “mixed up” at school.

During an in-home meeting after a particularly challenging day at school, the SOC worker tried to talk with Sally about her difficulties at school. When Sally refused to discuss her day at school, the SOC worker took a different approach. Gathering construction paper, crayons, and markers from her mobile supply closet (the trunk of her car) the SOC worked asked Sally to draw pictures of her day. The SOC worker suggested different types of pictures like one of her family and one of her friends at school. After several different pictures, Sally drew a picture of a classroom friend who asks many questions. Sally described how the constant questions annoyed her and made it difficult to concentrate.

Seizing on this bit of information, the SOC worker asked Sally to draw a picture of what happens in her head when she can’t concentrate. This time, Sally’s picture revealed that rather than concentrating on her math homework, Sally’s head was filled with concern about her biological mother and trying to figure out ways that she could take care of her mother. With a better understanding of Sally’s concern for her mother, the foster family and the SOC worker were able to develop ways to help Sally address her anxieties.

Shortly after the drawing session, another piece of the puzzle for Sally fell into place. During a visit to the eye doctor, it was determined that Sally’s eyes do not naturally cross the “center line of sight.”Sally’s right eye could only see on the right side and her left eye could only see on the left. The doctor prescribed vision therapy to help train her eyes and brain to create the “natural crossing” action.

After several months of vision therapy and addressing Sally’s concerns about her biological mother, her school work and behavior are improving. Through the SOC program and her foster family’s support, Sally now has the tools she needs to better address the distractions inside and outside of her head.

*Name has been changed to protect the privacy of the family.