EMDR With Kids:  Another Real Client Story

kidsJuly 31, 2003

Dear Greg,

Thank you so very much for working with Thomas, and helping our family get back to normal! John and I still can’t believe how quickly and completely Thomas recovered after meeting with you. Please feel free to use our family’s testimony, and I will be available to speak about our experience any time you need.

In November 2002, our 6-year-old son, Thomas, watched the movie The Predator. (For the record, I had nothing to do with this!) He immediately began exhibiting symptoms of severe stress and fear. Unfortunately, that same weekend, he took a serious tumble and hit his head quite hard, so I attributed his behavior to his head injury. I was so convinced that his behavior was caused by the fall, that I took him to our family doctor, who ordered a CAT scan (which, of course, was normal).

Thomas’ initial symptoms of bedwetting, and sleeplessness continued, increasing in frequency. By Christmas, the bedwetting had lessened, but Thomas no longer slept in his own room, but in ours, on the floor. If we forced him (by threat of punishment, which I now regret) to go to bed in his own room, he would sneak into our room during the night, and we would find him in the morning. When we realized no amount of punishment or reward would convince him to spend the night in his own bed, we just made a place for him in our room.

Even while sleeping in our room, he was very restless, waking often during the night, unable to get back to sleep. He also started talking during his sleep, and the things he said were quite disturbing. He began sleepwalking, and was difficult to wake in the morning. (Our whole family was beginning to exhibit symptoms of sleep deprivation, but Thomas and I were bearing the brunt of it.)

As the weeks wore on, the situation deteriorated. Thomas, normally a happy, social, bright boy, became sullen, anxious, and easily angered. He would no longer stay alone in a room, not even to take a bath. During the day, when I would take my shower, he would sit outside the bathroom door. He would not go down to the playroom to get a game or toy, unless someone went with him.

As a home-schooled student, Thomas has always been bright & focused, easy to teach. He became extremely distracted and fidgety, unable to sit still for even the simplest task. He cried easily and had negative, intrusive thoughts. He would frequently tell me that he “couldn’t get the bad thoughts out” of his head. He started lying. His hands began to shake all the time. I had several friends ask me what was wrong with my son. Even his swim coach noticed a marked decrease in his attention span during practice and at meets. His times had inexplicably gotten significantly worse, and he looked strikingly awkward and uncoordinated – like he had somehow forgotten how to swim.

During this time, I maintained an open line of communication with Thomas, trying to get him to talk about what was bothering him. I intensely monitored his associations with others, looking for some clue to his behavior. I asked him to draw pictures of his “bad thoughts,” and then we would discuss them, focusing on the difference between reality and fantasy. I changed his diet, removing all caffeine and most sugar, and limited his dairy. I no longer allowed him to play computer games or watch television (except for what he saw when his father and sister were watching). All this was not to punish him, but a desperate effort to somehow “fix” him.

In March, Thomas was invited to spend the night with a friend from church. This little boy and his family are very familiar to Thomas, and he had spent the night on more than one occasion with them. Since he slept with his sister sometimes (when John and I needed a break, Pressly would volunteer for “night watchman” duty) and did fine, we did not expect any problems. At 11:30 pm, we received a call from Thomas, tearfully asking us to come get him. This was the first time he had ever done that. That night was my awakening. I realized my son was not getting better, and that I needed to get him some help.

While I was exploring different avenues for obtaining help for Thomas, a good friend suggested I call a therapist she knew named Greg Smith. I met with Greg, who asked some questions about what had been going on. He then asked if he could talk to Thomas, after getting some background information from me. I was agreeable, and Thomas was relaxed about it, since he so desperately wanted to get over the thoughts and feelings that had been troubling him for more than four months at that point.

When Greg met with me, he presented the EMDR theory. I was very skeptical because, from my Christian background, it sounded like “new age, hocus-pocus stuff” (my words). However, we trusted Greg and knew his reputation as a highly regarded professional, so we set up an appointment for Thomas.

After only two actual EMDR sessions with Greg, we noticed a marked change for the better:  He started sleeping soundly in his own room…he became talkative and cheerful again…he took a bath with the door closed…his hands stopped shaking…his anxiety level dropped he no longer talked about “bad thoughts”…he focused on his schoolwork…he no longer seemed nervous, jumpy, or fidgety…and his swim times bounced back to where they were before all this started! Everyone who knows Thomas noticed the difference. One of our friends who had previously expressed her concern commented, “He seems so happy again!” In a nutshell, all his symptoms were 100% resolved, and Thomas was back to the happy, joyful, lighthearted, smiling, warm, affectionate, loving, excited child that we hadn’t seen for months.

It has been four months since Thomas “became normal again,” and we are still amazed and so very, very thankful. I am so grateful that God used my friend to lead us to Greg Smith. EMDR changed our life, and gave us our son back.

– Chris Caldwell – Greenville, SC

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