Archive for tag: Lutheran Community Services

Finding Mental and Behavioral Health Resources - One Mom's Story

Erika Lopez2My name is Erika and I am a therapist at Lutheran Community Services NW. At my job, I work with youth who are struggling with mental health challenges, but I'm also a mom of three children, ages 5, 2, and 1.  For me, mental health isn't just a job, it is a complete shift in culture from how I was raised.

I am Mexican and in my culture mental health isn't something we "believe in".  When we experience challenges, we don't seek help from social workers, therapists or psychologists, we "deal with it."  When my oldest son was about 2.5 years old  I worked as a preschool teacher and assisted in other daycares classrooms. Daycare and preschool had been a huge challenge for my son.  Other children didn't understand what he was saying, most of the time his teachers didn't understand him either.  He was sent home with incident reports, day after day.  I would buckle him into his car seat and as I was driving, tears would run down my cheeks, because all I wanted was for my son to feel loved and accepted. I felt like I was failing him as a mom.

I started asking myself "why isn't my son talking as much as the other children or doing all the same things they are doing?"  It was a challenge for me to accept that my son needed to be evaluated.  Many members of my family would say,  "Oh, he'll learn on his own time, he's just lazier than the other children."  I felt unsupported and judged by my family, like if I was letting them down.  I wasn't sure what to do.  Do we just hope things change on their own or do I follow my gut feeling as a mom.  My husband and I talked about it over and over, until we finally decided to ask his Pediatrician for a referral.

My son was evaluated and diagnosed at an agency for speech delays and he was also evaluated at his current preschool for developmental delays; his results showed that he was delayed in three developmental areas: cognitive, communication, and social.  Currently, my son is 5 but is developmental at the age of a 2 year old.  After he was evaluated, I realized that it wasn't his fault or my fault as a mother, he just wasn't in the right environment.  When my son was accepted into a special education program, EVERYTHING CHANGED! He started to learn.  He speaks more.  He has friends.  He learned to socialize.  His anxiety is gone.  His teacher and the school have been the best thing to ever happen to him.  He learned to love school and the bus rides are his favorite!  It was the best decision we made as parents!  As a mom, I cry now with joy when I drive away from his school, because I know I'm not a failure and because of all the great things his teachers say about him!  It fills my heart with happiness.

This is exactly what I love to do when I am at work as a mental health therapist.  I want to empower my youth and their families and to be their cheerleader. I want to walk alongside them as they find solutions to their barriers and help build their skills to navigate through their challenges.

As a mom, it wasn't just about the skills my son learned, but also about the skills I needed to learn, as well as the skills our family needed to learn to support our oldest son.  Together we have helped our son be successful and my son has helped me grow as a mom and a therapist. He has inspired me to help others who are facing similar culture and resource barriers. Many families don't know what help is out there for us and now, everyday, I am motivated to help families find what they need to overcome whatever battles they are fighting.

Parents sometimes aren't aware of the resources available to them or of their rights and their children's rights.  504 plans are implemented at schools to help students with disabilities be successful by providing accommodations.  IEPs are a legal document that allow students with disabilities to receive specialized instructions, accommodations, and other services.  To receive more information about these plans and to request an evaluation, send your child's school a letter requesting why you'd like the evaluation.

If you are seeking mental and behavioral health support for a youth or child, please reach out to Lutheran Community Services NW and ask to speak to one of our Referral Specialists. Call (509) 783-2085 or find us online at LCSNW.org

 

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