Positive Gains

Eli, age 15, began special education in second grade. His parents, Tom and Tod, were frequently receiving phone calls from school regarding Eli’s behavior. It wasn’t long until Eli was out of school more than he was in school. That’s when they were referred to Lifeways and Highfields.

Eli started working with Highfields’ Wraparound Facilitator, Keanna Mendez, who was one of Tom’s students at the local college. “It was rough at first with all of these new people in our lives,” said Tom. “We had Keanna and a respite counselor. We tried music therapy with Eli, and we saw some good things, but it was still a little rough.”  Eli was eventually diagnosed with DMDD (Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder).

Then, the pandemic hit, and everything just sort of stopped. Tom and Tod are teachers, so they were both trying to teach from home while their two kids were trying to learn from home, and it was busy for a while. Luckily, Eli was granted an extension with the Wraparound Program.

“If we would have stopped services at that point, I think we would have missed out on a lot,” said Tom. “Highfields saw that there was potential to make a difference.” 

Keanna has been very helpful to Eli and his family, and they’ve built a strong and meaningful relationship.

“During this journey, we have been able to get a better understanding of who Eli is, what he needs to be successful, and what that success needs to look like from his unique lenses,” said Keanna. “Throughout the 5-year journey, we have been able to get Eli back into school for nearly full days. He no longer hates school and looks forward to the beginning of each school year. He is experiencing positive gains academically and social emotionally, while building his independence skills daily with the supports he needs to be successful.”

Tom says that Keanna and Eli have a strong relationship, and it resembles that of an aunt and nephew. Eli said, “I like Keanna, she helps me a lot!”

Moving forward, Tom and Tod are interested in figuring out what Eli is good at and helping him apply it to a possible career in the future.

Eli is currently a freshman in high school and enjoys playing video games. Tom and Tod are thankful for the help of Keanna and Highfields, and Highfields is proud to stabilize, strengthen, and empower families like theirs.

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