Behavioral coaching helps family see progress for son with ADHD

Child and Family Behavioral Coaching

When her son Jackson, 11, needed support for his mental health, Terralon Knight discovered the struggles that many parents in a similar situation face.

“There are a lot of challenges,” she said.

As a medical director at Optum, she said the mental health care system had a bit of a learning curve — on top of parenting a child with ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder), anxiety and sickle cell disease.

“There’s not a one-size-fits-all for therapy,” she said. “There’s also different levels of care for mental health … these are all things I had to learn.”

When Terralon discovered the Child and Family Behavioral Coaching program, offered through her employer, much of the weight of managing her child’s mental health diagnoses was lifted.

The program is fully virtual, which allows for easier scheduling and added convenience for busy families. It also includes both the child and their caregivers, to help with planning, structure and consistency at home.

“We should think about behavioral health the same way we think about our physical health.”

— Dr. Terralon Knight

Jackson was able to get take advantage of the program fast, at times that work for their busy schedule. The program also helped to connect them with a provider who is trained to work with children.

For Jackson, the coaching helped him find tools to communicate big feelings.

“Like the thermometer … five is when you’re like really hot, when you’re really mad,” he said. “And then zero is when you’re calm.”

Jackson’s coach helped him discover what he needs in those overwhelming moments, or how to get from a “five” to a “zero” — for him, it’s being alone in a calm room and meditative breathing.

Terralon also participates in the sessions, learning words and phrases that help Jackson continue his work at home.

“Once the coach established a really good relationship with him, then she was definitely able to help him put words to his feelings,” she said. “It’s all a partnership.”

Terralon said the program has been so helpful she’s looking to sign up her other two children for Child and Family Behavioral Coaching.

“I think we tend to think of therapy or coaching at a time when there’s a problem, instead of being proactive,” she said. “We should think about behavioral health the same way we think about our physical health.”

Where Jackson initially struggled with expressing his frustrations, with triggers that were somewhat unpredictable, Terralon said she’s seeing great improvement, thanks in part to the coaching program.

“I am happy to say through the coaching and the work he’s done, he can generally express now when he needs a break. He has coping skills,” she said. “He’s come a long way with that. I’ve definitely seen some improvement and I’m very proud of him.”

One more thing

If you are struggling with your mental health, don’t wait to get care – resources are available and it may be easier to access than you think. Your health benefits may offer a variety of behavioral health solutions that may include digital self-help tools, in-person and virtual visits, coaching, and employee assistance programs. You can get details on your health plan’s website or app — or call the number on your member ID card.

Learn more about mental health resources.

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