Bridge Over Troubled Water

Myra Spindel, Psy.D., JCS’ lead psychologist, administers one of a battery of tests to a young client.

TROUBLED CHILDREN, THOSE THAT EXHIBIT AGGRESSIVE, WITHDRAWN OR GENERALLY UNACCEPTABLE BEHAVIOR DESPITE THE BEST EFFORTS OF THEIR CONCERNED PARENTS, NEGATIVELY AFFECT THE LIVES OF THOSE AROUND THEM, INCLUDING THEIR OWN. THAT’S WHY THERE IS CAPS, THE JEWISH COMMUNITY SERVICES’ CHILDREN’S ASSESSMENT & PSYCHOLOGICAL SERVICES, AN ORGANIZATION THAT SEEKS TO HELP BOTH THE CHILDREN AND THEIR PARENTS.

By Katherine Gillett    |    Photography by Marian Mendelsohn and Victoria Castro
Clinician Michelle Bortnik, MS, RMFTI, and her client participate in a therapeutic play activity designed to increase his self- control and impulse control, as well as regulate anxiety.
Clinician Michelle Bortnik, MS, RMFTI, and her client participate in a therapeutic play activity designed to increase his self- control and impulse control, as well as regulate anxiety.

At first glance, Jeremy Altstock* appears to be a typical seven-year-old, a charming child with dazzling hazel eyes and curly chestnut hair. He’s a bright, extroverted, energetic boy from a stable home with two involved, caring parents and a loving sister. But as his father Martin explains, he has been a ‘handful’ since he was a toddler—constantly jumping around, impulsive and lacking self control. “He’s a very lovable kid “but he obviously needs a lot of structure and assistance to achieve his full potential.”

Once he started going to school, his inability to sit still and concentrate became problematic. Last Spring, his Jewish day school staff suggested that Jeremy be assessed by Jewish Community Services’ Children’s Assessment & Psychological Services (CAPS) program and seek solutions for their son’s disruptive behavior.

Barbara Rockowitz, JCS’ director of clinical services, explains, “People often think of JCS as an organization with programs mostly for seniors, but the fact is we also have a full array of services for children. The first step is to fully test a child who is aggressive, withdrawn or exhibits unacceptable behavior so we can determine how our experts can help.”

CRUCIAL TESTING IS CONDUCTED

Myra Spindel, Psy.D., the lead psychologist of JCS’ CAPS, conducted a psychological assessment that identified Jeremy’s academic and psychological strengths and weaknesses. After which, his parents received a comprehensive report with recommendations for an effective treatment program.

The testing of children like Jeremy is crucial to develop an appropriate plan that advances student achievement while boosting low self-esteem, substandard performance and unmet academic potential. JCS offers a full battery of psycho-educational tests:

Social, emotional and behavioral functioning

School achievement 

Intellectual and cognitive functioning

Memory, perception and attention

SOLUTIONS ARE SOUGHT AND FOUND

The thorough testing determined that Jeremy was a gifted child who was suffering from multiple difficulties including Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), emotional control, fears, staying focused and controlling behavior.

The CAPS staff referred him to a psychiatrist who prescribed a low dosage of medication to treat his behavioral problems. “The difference was immediate and impressive. Within a week, my wife Sharon and I noticed significant improvement,” reports his father. “In addition, we began therapy with the CAPS program. We could not be more satisfied with the outcome.”

JEREMY’S SISTER ALSO RECEIVES TREATMENT

Jeremy’s older sister Sophie, a smart but introverted 11-year-old, was having problems of a different nature: exhibiting signs of withdrawal and an inability to focus. Her lack of attention caused learning and social difficulties that prompted Martin and Sharon to contact CAPS to arrange an assessment. Psychologist Diane Ramirez, Ph.D, conducted a full array of testing and determined Sophie was exhibiting signs of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). This led Dr. Ramirez to suggest counseling as well as offer techniques on how they could effectively deal with issues such as short-term memory deficit.

A SUCCESS STORY IN PROGRESS

Now, the entire family is receiving on-going counseling from one of JCS’ master’s level clinicians.  The CAPS staff also incorporated the schools’ administrators, teachers and counselors into the treatment plan who also noticed marked improvements. They are impressed with the JCS’ continuum of care which makes it convenient for families to receive coordinated services from the same organization.

CAPS is available to everyone of all faiths and backgrounds, and has culturally-sensitive clinicians serving the Orthodox Jewish community. JCS can also offer sliding-scale fees based on the family’s financial circumstances.

Sharon expresses the feelings of her family, “Jewish Community Services has been a real life saver for us. We were definitely struggling, but thanks to their help, I have great faith that we are going to be better off in the long term.” Martin adds, “This is definitely a success story in progress.” 

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Jewish Way is a lifestyle magazine created with the passionate goal of integrating the Jewish Community. The magazine also contains sections on Jewish education, life in Israel, travel, food recipes, interior design, health, fashion and much more!...