Birth to Five Helpline helps local teacher, mom find hope

Abby, a Valley teacher and mother of two, received a Birth to Five Helpline magnet when she was pregnant with her first child in 2013. Little did she expect, the magnet she placed on her refrigerator would later help strengthen her relationship with her son, Luke, nearly four years down the road.

Three-year-old Luke and his younger brother, 18-month-old Jude, didn’t always get along. Luke and Jude’s rocky relationship, in combination with Luke’s ongoing behavioral challenges, left Abby constantly feeling exhausted. Daily activities like grocery shopping or visiting a family member’s house became increasingly difficult.

After weeks of trying to navigate Luke’s less-than-ideal behavior, an intense argument between the brothers over a toy was the last straw. Abby took solitude in her kitchen to take a deep breath and made a decision to seek out some help. That’s when the Birth to Five Helpline magnet beckoned her attention, prompting a call that would lead to long-term results.

“I was relieved by the idea that there is a lifeline to support,” said Abby. “The Birth to Five Helpline specialist and I talked about all kinds of things like Luke’s challenges with eating, potty training and his challenges playing with his younger brother.”

Though Luke has a sweet and loving personality, his need for independence had manifested into behavioral challenges that Abby was unsure of how to approach. The Helpline specialist asked Abby about Luke and his brother, learning the background information necessary to create a big-picture perspective of the family’s daily life.

“We worked together to brainstorm how Luke can have more control, making him feel like the big brother,” said Abby. “When I implemented all of the things my specialist and I talked about, it really had the effect of making him into his own separate person from his younger brother.”

Making small, yet effective, changes to Luke’s daily routine was the key to success. Abby helped her son gain the independence he craved by illustrating his schedule on a picture calendar, helping him to better understand his role as a big brother and also inviting him to help in the kitchen.

Luke’s behavior improved almost immediately. Outbursts began to subside, he began showing affection to his little brother and meal time shifted from a struggle to an enjoyable experience. In the past, Luke struggled to finish meals and resisted trying new foods. Now, one of Luke’s favorite places is at his mother’s side in the kitchen, helping to prepare meals for the entire family. Assisting with dinner time in the kitchen helped Luke to expand his comfort zone.

“I was so shocked that he tried five new things that first week that I actually started counting and made a list,” said Abby. “He didn’t like all of them, but he made the effort to try new foods on his own and that’s what’s important.”

Abby’s Birth to Five Helpline specialist recommended that Abby incorporate favorite items from his daily life into trying new things. The pair recreated the iconic cherry pie from his favorite bedtime story, Pie in the Sky.

Luke’s positive change of pace soon extended beyond the kitchen and into going the extra mile to show affection for his little brother Jude. Abby says that after making lifestyle changes, it’s now not uncommon for Luke to show off his new “big-brother” mentality.

“At a recent family outing the boys each got balloons, but Jude lost his and was starting to get very upset,” Abby recalled. “Luke saw the distress and gave Jude his own balloon to make him feel better. That was a really sweet scenario that likely wouldn’t have happened before.”

Collaborating with a Birth to Five Helpline specialist enabled Abby to better understand Luke’s strengths and weaknesses, helping him to grow and reach new milestones.

“When making the decision to call, it was about doing something for my boys, so any emotions or feelings of vulnerability were checked at the door – it wasn’t about me – it was for them,” said Abby. “Always having the right answer as a parent is not realistic, but having a good support system is.”

For free child development support, call the Birth to Five Helpline at 877-705-KIDS (5437)
or download the Birth to Five Helpline app!