Like a lot of kids these days, Lucas had a really hard time with COVID isolation. Just three years old at the time, he developed very challenging behaviors. He would refuse to do as he was told, and if he was told “no,” he would scream and bang his head. These might sound like typical behaviors from a toddler, but they reached crisis proportions with Lucas. These meltdowns would happen multiple times every day, and each one would last an alarmingly long time. “He would cry for 20 minutes,” his mother, Delene, says.

As first-time parents, they didn’t have a lot in the way of role models or experience, and they didn’t know what to do with their son. They tried everything, from trying to comfort him to disciplining him, and it only made matters worse. Delene read books, looked on the Internet, and still couldn’t find anything that helped. It finally reached a point where they felt Lucas needed professional help, and they brought him to Connecticut Children’s. There is a very wide range of behavioral health issues, and we are here for all of them, because every child, every family matters.

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Lucas’ parents began working with psychologist Siddika Mulchan, Psy.D., who taught them about an approach called Parent-Child Interaction Therapy. “Rather than have Lucas come to me to talk for an hour a week,” she teaches parents skills to have a therapy session with their child for five minutes every day. “We just don’t call it therapy; we call it ‘special time’ so it sounds a little more fun for the kids. It’s where parents are providing positive reinforcement and rebuilding their attachment and bond with their child, to help them see their child in a different way from what they’ve been experiencing. And the child gets more positive attention from their parents and less negative attention.”

She also gave them very clear and carefully structured guidelines for how and when to apply discipline. With those new skills in hand, they began working with Lucas, and he took to it like a dog after a squirrel. If his parents miss a day of special time, he calls them on it. And it’s working—their household is peaceful once again, and Lucas is back to being the bright, active, charming boy he used to be.