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Ethan: Chill & Spill

“Before he didn’t know that he had a choice – someone made him mad, and he hit them. Now, he knew that he had choices.”

Ethan lived in several foster homes before being adopted at age 6. He had been abused and as a result, was highly aggressive and often exhibited violent behavior. His adoptive parents placed him in a behavioral treatment center when he was 8, where he lived until he was 10. After that, he moved back with his adoptive parents, but it wasn’t too long before he ended up assaulting his mom.

Traditional anger management programs were not working, and Ethan was running out of time before being charged as an adult for committing criminal acts. He was 14 when sent to Morning Star Boy’s Ranch, a therapeutic, residential treatment center.

Sue Rolando, the Cultural Arts Coordinator, began using Chill & Spill with the boys in her care.

“There’s an activity called “Action/Reaction” and it’s all about teaching kids how to identify their emotional triggers. I asked Ethan to diagram what makes him feel out of control both physically and emotionally.

“I remember, he wrote very little. Instead, he drew and colored a lot. To show how he felt before he hit someone, he ended up drawing fire coming out of his hands.”

Ethan had never realized that he had a burning sensation before he lost his temper. This was a huge revelation to him to be able to connect the tingling in his hands to the onset of a violent episode. It was Ethan’s first step toward gaining control of his anger.

“Before he didn’t know that he had a choice – someone made him mad, and he hit them. Now, he knew that he had choices.”

For Ethan, this meant the difference between going to jail or getting back on track.

“It was like he was handed keys to the kingdom,” said Sue.

Through Chill & Spill, Ethan continued to learn more about his anger triggers, and how to express difficult emotions. The book was instrumental in allowing him to become aware of, express and manage his rage. For Ethan, this was life changing.

“I am happy to report that he was able to be reunited with his family and is now successfully living at home and doing well in school!”

NOTE: To protect the child’s identity\, names may or may not have been changed.