Meet Roman: Broadlawns FOCUS Program Graduate

"The teachers truly have a heart for the children at FOCUS. The kids feel their care and kindness,” said Kristy, mother of FOCUS program graduate, Roman.

Roman’s challenges in the classroom began the first day of kindergarten at Hanawalt Elementary. After years of trying a traditional school approach, Kristy, felt in her heart that keeping him there would take away all of his self-confidence. The Broadlawns FOCUS Program helped Roman to overcome his challenges and change the course he was on.

The FOCUS program utilizes a team-based approach where teachers and therapists work together to provide a therapeutic environment for children with mental and emotional considerations that inhibit their ability to thrive in traditional school settings. One of the things that helped Roman to succeed with FOCUS was the structure of the program. “They were strict, had a lot of rules, and they consistently followed them, so we knew what to expect every single time. All the kids knew they were there for a reason, and empathized and were compassionate with each other. In other schools, I was looked at as the ‘bad kid’. I didn’t feel that way at FOCUS,” Roman said.

“I could tell the teachers really cared about us, and I had never felt that way. I also loved the motivators they had. There were different levels and we knew what we had to do to get to those levels. If you got there, you got to go ‘off campus’ with Mel to do something fun -- a reward for watching our behavior and getting to the level. They also rewarded our good behavior a lot in the classroom.”

With the collaborative team environment and therapy offered at FOCUS, Kristy started to see positive changes in Roman. Kristy and her husband were involved in Roman’s journey, too. “It was refreshing to be involved with Roman at school in a positive way. Before, it was call after call for me to come and get him. That never happened at FOCUS. They knew what to do and helped teach him. I was never called to come and get him from FOCUS. I cannot express what a change that was. Before FOCUS, Roman was the ‘bad kid’, so of course, we felt like the ‘bad parents’. The isolation was heartbreaking. FOCUS was positive and warm and they worked with us to help Roman and taught all of us skills. We weren’t sure Roman would ever end up back in a normal classroom, but that was not the case. For Roman and our family, FOCUS made all the difference in Roman’s self-image, confidence, and coping skills.”

After witnessing another student having a meltdown in the hallway at Roman’s school, Kristy wondered how the FOCUS team was able come to work each day knowing the challenges they may face. When Kristy asked Michelle, the interventionist, Michelle replied, calmly and sincerely, “Oh, the kids have had a really hard weekend and we need to get them back where they feel safe and cared for.” Kristy cried. Her experience with school—and Roman—was that no one wanted to deal with her child. At FOCUS, however, the interventionist, therapists, teachers, all “signed up” to be there, to teach Roman, and those children who can’t function in the traditional classroom setting.

The FOCUS program aims to truly embrace the entire child; academically, socially, and emotionally. Through continued learning, program leaders strive to offer that supportive environment. “I loved that the team was so eager and open to learning and implementing any ideas that would help these kids.”

The day finally came when not only the FOCUS team, but Roman himself was confident in his ability to thrive in a traditional classroom environment. Roman was in 7th grade when he told the team that he was ready to transition back to a traditional classroom. Kristy was grateful. “Michelle (Roman’s interventionist) and Patty (Roman’s therapist) met with us and staff at Merrill Middle School. He started going part-time after Spring Break 7th grade. Michelle felt it was going so well, that he fully transitioned before his 7th grade year was over.” Not only did Roman make a smooth transition back to the traditional classroom, but he went on to graduate high school on time—something his mom Kristy wasn’t sure would ever happen. “I took a picture outside of Roosevelt High School the day Roman and I went to register him for High School and sent it to Patty. I had said to her in a previous therapy meeting, “Roman will never set foot in Roosevelt High School.” In her calm, knowing way, she said, “I wouldn’t count on that.” She was right. Since his 7th grade transition, he has not had a single behavior issue. Not only that, but in his 2nd semester of junior year, Roman got his behavior goal totally removed from his IEP (Individualized Educational Plan). I was shocked. This was all from what he learned at FOCUS.”

The FOCUS program was designed to support school-aged children with mental illness and emotional considerations that inhibit their ability to thrive in traditional settings including their classroom, home, or the community. Roman was given the ability to thrive and learn in this setting through the Broadlawns FOUCS Program.

FOCUS programs are available at Hoyt Middle School and Mann Elementary School and provide support to school-aged children (3-8 grade) with mental illness and emotional considerations that inhibit their ability to thrive in traditional settings. The FOCUS II program is designed for high school aged students. Within a therapeutic classroom environment and through outreach activities, the FOCUS program offers an intensive psychiatric resource to children experiencing severe emotional difficulties who need access to resources beyond what a traditional community school is able to provide. The FOCUS programming attends to the needs of the individual child and assists them with successfully functioning among their family, peers and the community.

For information on the FOCUS or FOCUS II programs, please call (515) 282-6885.