40-year-old Rockville center focuses on child mental health – WUSA9.com

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ROCKVILLE, Md. — Tucked away in a Rockville neighborhood, is a place that finds the heart of every child — especially, the ones who’ve had theirs broken by adversity or hardship.
There’s hope at The Lourie Center. It’s a respite where little people grappling with big emotions find a home. Their team of champions show children this safe space can handle all kinds of feelings.
For 40 years, The Lourie Center has helped children navigate those feelings by studying, teaching and wrapping them in support when their lives have been shaken to the core.
“It’s such a profoundly frightening experience and that’s one of core things about trauma — it is threatening to the actual life of the child and overwhelms every system of the child,” Lourie Center Executive Director Dr. Jimmy Venza said. 
But something happens at the Lourie Center with music, therapy and more to recalibrate their system. Many children have been forced out of traditional school settings where “acting out” masked their cries for help. Dr. Venza says children are always communicating what they need, and educators need to recognize and decode their language.
“It’s not what are you doing, or what’s wrong with your behavior, but maybe what’s happening to you, and having the teacher take a more empathetic stance of curiosity,” Venza said.
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You can see signs of empathy everywhere you look from the halls to the walls. There are affirmations that lift and reflects each child.
Ana Climaco’s grandson, Jayden was just four when he arrived as a scared little boy.
“He wouldn’t like to be touched,” Climaco said.  He don’t like people. Let’s say we went to Walmart, we’ll have to put him in one of the shopping carts and cover him.”
Jayden was deeply impacted after being separated from his parents; he’s being raised by Climaco. Eight years later, he’s a happier and well-adjusted child. Climaco said. The Lourie Center teachers gave him the words to describe his feelings.
“The Lourie Center teach him to say, ‘I don’t want to talk right now, please don’t touch me, I’m not feeling okay,” Climaco said of her grandson’s growth. 
She said those words coupled with therapy and wrap around services have completely changed Jayden’s life and put him on a new trajectory. He’s now in second grade, in a regular class and thriving.
Jayden is a success story. But far too many children wait up to seven years for this kind of treatment.
Dr. Amber Valentine-Minion, a licensed psychologist, said early intervention is key.
“So many times, an event will happen — a traumatic or scary distressing event — and that shifts how you see the world,” Valentine-Minion said. “How you see people what you expect from people. The earlier that you can get in, you can shift the child’s worldview.” 
Eighty percent of the children who come to Lourie find new ways to succeed in learning and in life. Finding power in being seen and heard on the path to social and emotional wellness.
The stakes are high. According to SAMHSA’s The National Child Traumatic Stress Network, in children who experience trauma without intervention by age four: 
Plus, they are two to five times more likely to attempt suicide. And these stats aren’t even taking the effects of COVID-19 into account.
The Lourie Center believes investing in young children benefits not just the child in crisis, but all of us as community. That investment helps keep children out of poverty and crime and into productive lives.
To learn more about The Lourie Center for resources or to support it’s mission – visit www.thelouriecenter.org.
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