Carolyn and Mark’s son Mitchell was born with challenges, though they couldn’t have predicted just how much they would affect their lives. Mitchell has microcephaly – a smaller than average brain which could have resulted in anything from mild learning disabilities to not being able to not being able to swallow. Mitchell has autism and is for the most part, non-verbal. This, coupled with his physical challenges caused by cerebral palsy, Mitchell gets frustrated and lashes out. When he was younger, his parents could take him under their wing or give him a big bear hug – to control the rage, comfort him and calm him right down. They were handling it as a family. But Mitchell was growing up. And as soon as he hit puberty, the power behind the rage became unmanageable. He put his head through drywall and windows. He was a danger to himself and to the rest of his family. The physical and emotional toll of caring for their son who was constantly lashing out was becoming too much to bear. The family was at the end of their rope, they were burnt out and running on empty. They were afraid for themselves…and they were afraid for Mitchell. At the advice of their pediatrician, they took Mitchell to the Emergency Department at the ACH. Upon assessment, he was admitted to the Mental Health Unit – a locked down unit in the basement of the ACH. As Carolyn did the tour and went through the admission process, she did so with tears in her eyes – tears of relief that someone could help…in a place where her son would be safe.
Mitchell stayed on the Mental Health Unit for 9 months – and during that time, Mental Health staff worked with the family to put the pieces in place to find a long term solution for Mitchell – a secure place close to home where he could live and be safe. In the meantime, Mitchell adapted to the Mental Health Unit thanks to the Music Therapy Program, and with the love and support of not only the staff but the other kids on the unit who really rallied around Mitchell. This warmed the hearts of his parents – and inspired Mum Carolyn to concentrate on the lessons Mitchell can teach all of us.
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