Moma remembers her son L.J. being active “even in the womb” and later, as a toddler, he’d sometimes grab her by the face and scream. This irritability seemed to continue when he started day care and his mom started getting a lot of calls that he was scratching and biting other children. As he grew up, his aggression continued with him, fighting with peers and family. His mom felt like she could almost never get him to do what she would ask of him.
In the midst of this struggle, you can still see two people with undeniably strong gifts. Mom has served in the military since before L.J. was born and has been with the National Guard for the last 5 to 6 years. As a single mom, she still works full time on the night shift at the local Veterans’ Affairs Hospital while going to school to complete her RN. When you first meet L.J., you can immediately see his advanced intellect. Despite his social problems, L.J.’s schools have always agreed that he is possibly the most intelligent child they’ve ever taught. Though he struggles with perfectionism, he can talk with adults about his progress in an incredibly insightful way.
L.J. and Moma came to Eckerd CenLA Wraparound in June 2014 after L.J. came home from living with his father in Florida for about a year. While there, L.J.’s aggressive and disruptive behavior came to a head after fighting regularly and allegedly assaulting two younger cousins as an act of revenge for them breaking his video game system. No charges were ever filed for these allegations, but L.J. continued to struggle with this. Mom came to Eckerd frustrated that she could not find help for her son because of these allegations. She and the family’s facilitator, Nichole, were able to find a counseling agency that specialized in helping youth like L.J. After working with their facilitator to build a team around them consisting of a Youth Support Mentor, Ronrico, and Parent Support Specialist, Catrina, along with L.J.’s Granny Mable and Uncle Donnie, things started to change. Catrina helped Mom know that she is empowered to be an advocate for her son and to juggle all of the stressful things in her life in a more healthy way. Ronrico and L.J.’s counselor, Robert, have been able to change the way that L.J. thinks about others and about himself. Although they may still face the occasional setback, both L.J. and his mom are able to face these obstacles with a new perspective. Mom has learned to speak more positively of her son and not become overwhelmed with stress when tough things happen.
L.J. is now in the Gifted & Talented program at his school and has been able to “teach” other students in his class when they don’t understand things. He encourages his friends to avoid fights and resolve issues in a more peaceful way. He still has room to grow, but now knows that he is capable of doing that. When Mom first met Nichole, she talked about being hopeless with her son’s behavior. Now she and L.J. know that they have each other and they will always have hope.