A family from the Yukon has made Regina home while they heal.
Tara Fraser and Shaun Smith, who are from Whitehorse, have one son named Rylee. He began exhibiting negative behaviours nearly seven years ago. He was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome (a brain-based condition that causes people who have it to make involuntary sounds and movements called tics) plus other associated disorders including anxiety, sensory obsessive compulsive disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, and sleep problems. Eventually, things with their son got so bad that Tara was forced to quit her job to stay home with him, leaving the formerly two-income family’s entire financial load on Shaun’s shoulders.
Tara and Shaun tried a number of services to help their son’s behaviour, but quickly realized that they needed something that would allow their whole family to participate in the healing process.
“We’d done other programs – they were great programs, but I was really looking for something family-based,” explained Tara, who advocated for two years for her family to attend the Ranch’s Family Treatment Program (FTP).
The program aims to improve safety and functioning so families can remain together. Intensive in-home services are provided that assist the family in obtaining knowledge and skills including: counselling in child development, effective parenting, mood management, communication, life skills, budgeting, and how to access community resources.
Eventually, their son was referred to Ranch Ehrlo’s residential treatment program and began living at Appleton House in Pilot Butte in January of 2017.
“He did really well there,” Tara said. “That’s part of the routine with him – he did really well in any program he was in, with other people. That’s part of the reason I was looking for a family program, because it’s us that he takes his anger, frustration, and anxiety out on.”
In April, Tara and Shaun made the move to Regina and the entire family entered the Family Treatment Program. While no two families who enter the program are alike, Tara and Shaun are unique in that they do not face many of the issues that confront other parents in the program. Rather, they were simply looking for a family-focused way of helping their son.
“We had more support in the first three days here than we had in years at home,” Tara said of the FTP.
The pair had an immediate appreciation for the approach taken by FTP staff to helping their family.
“We’ve made so many great connections with the staff,” Tara explained. “They aren’t there to tell us what to do; they’re there to support us and help us learn new strategies. But it’s all up to us, really.”
The program’s equine therapy component was a favourite of the family.
“Deanna (from the Regina Equestrian Centre) is really good at incorporating how you work with a horse, and turning that around to learn how you can communicate with your children,” Tara said. “You’re learning how to work with something that can’t communicate with you, so you have to think outside the box – that just really resonated with us.”
They credit the FTP for teaching them communication skills as well, a necessity with Shaun working out of town.
“It’s hard to communicate over the phone,” Tara explained, noting that they learned the importance of debriefing with one another.
“We gained a lot by coming down here,” Shaun added, explaining that they now feel confident they will be able to continue the positive habits they learned once they return to their regular routine.
“We fought to be here so we’re 100 per cent in. We participate in everything. We’re focused,” Tara said. “When we fight that hard for something you’re definitely going to give it your all.”
While Shaun has returned home to go back to work, Tara and their son will remain in the FTP until a discharge date has been set.
“If you looked at our family a year ago, we couldn’t have imagined this change,” Shaun said. “(The program) is life changing.”