A Mental Health Navigator Gives Brody and his Grandmother Hope

Brody and his grandmother

Since her now 12-year-old grandson Brody was about 3 years old, Sheila has navigated his mental health challenges. Both of his parents died before Brody was 6 years old. As a result, Sheila, who turns 79 at the end of 2024, has been his lone champion.

Born prematurely, Brody needed support from birth for the impacts of fetal alcohol syndrome. As he grew, more issues became apparent, including ADHD, ODD and eventually autism. Brody has had support throughout his life to catch up developmentally, socially and physically. But as early as day care, he has had issues with aggression and lack of social skills which caused problems for him in school.

Help from a Mental Health Navigator

In 2022, Sheila decided it was time to move from Massachusetts to her second home in Florida for better weather, reduced expenses and less responsibility than managing her house up north. However, it was a difficult transition for Brody. As a result, his behavior became even more problematic.

In 2023, Sheila needed triple bypass surgery and was having difficulty managing him while she didn’t feel well. At 5′ 6″, Brody’s aggression was too much to handle alone. She began searching for permanent placement for him in a group home, as Brody’s behavior made her fear for her safety.

Overwhelmed after his first day of middle school, Brody refused to go and was suspended. He was referred to Shelby, a Mental Health Navigator and the school based mental health team at Cypress Lake Middle School. Through the team, his education plan was adjusted to better meet his needs. He was tested and found to be on the Autism spectrum, which opened additional avenues for support. A new psychiatrist changed his medication.

Read More: Mental Health Navigator Program

Support for Brody

As a result, Brody now has a Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) to help him navigate at school and at home. A RBT provides one-on-one interventions to help Brody with communication, social and living skills to help reduce problematic behaviors.

Sheila finds support at Valerie’s House through a grandparent’s raising grandchildren support group and has renewed her certification to be a substitute teacher.

With the support systems now in place, “it’s almost like a light went off,” Sheila said. “He still has issues, but he’s altogether different. He has received a great deal of attention, and everyone is really supportive.”

Sheila said she’s no longer looking to find a placement for him because they are managing. Brody is now getting As in his classes and has begun transitioning to mainstream classes from some of his special education classes. Brody began attending teen support groups twice a month. He plans to join the Fort Myers Police Athletic League boxing program.

“He is so much calmer and manageable now,” Sheila said. “My sister has a master’s degree in child development, and she’s thrilled by the dramatic changes in him.”

Sheila says all the people who have helped Brody find success have also helped her.

“I feel like there’s a light at the end of the tunnel,” she said. “He’s always going to need support, but I don’t feel as hopeless as I once was. I feel better knowing he may have a better chance to live a happy, productive life.”

Support for Mental Health Navigators

Mental Health Navigators provide guidance and resources for families and children facing mental and behavioral health challenges.

Since Kids’ Minds Matter launched the pilot program in 2020, 120 children and their families like Sheila and Brody have benefitted.

The program is supported by philanthropy, with the goal of providing a Mental Health Navigator for every school in Lee and Collier counties.

Support The Mental Health Navigator Program