‘Dream job’ lets counselor help hundreds of kids

When one of his patients first came to the hospital, he didn’t know how to tie his shoes, to read or to write. The kid struggled socially as well. Yet Corey Teasdell watched as his patient taught himself sign language just so he could talk with a friend.

“He taught himself how to sign so he could communicate with a kid who is hearing impaired — to me that’s a huge success,” said Teasdell, a psychiatric childcare counselor at the Child Study and Treatment Center.

After working with more than 860 kids since he started at the psychiatric hospital, Teasdell finds that his patients’ successes are oftentimes nuanced — learning to trust one person or opening up about trauma they experienced.

“Kids get here when community-based resources are exhausted. So the support systems that they may have had are exhausted,” said Teasdell.

The patients he works with range from six to 17 years old, living with behavioral health conditions, substance disorders, histories of abuse, genetic disorders. As Teasdell puts it, these are kids who just struggle.

“You take some kid who has learning disabilities, cognitive disabilities, kids who’ve been labeled ADD, oppositional defiant, conduct disorder kids; you take these kids who have the alphabet of diagnoses of labels – life is hard,” said Teasdell. “Regardless of what our diagnoses are, regardless of what our histories are, we need to have compassion for people.”

He spent almost 18 years helping kids recover in the small 48-bed hospital – except for time spent on medical leave and with a practicum for the master’s in social work degree that he’s pursuing. Teasdell said he learned to draw on his own struggles for acceptance as a biracial child along with memories of his challenging junior high years to better relate to his patients; building cohesiveness with his coworkers also contributed to the care he provided.

“We’re all here for the same reason – we care about people, we care about the children, and making the world a better day for the kids that we work with,” said Teasdell.

He recalls declaring as a new hire that he found his dream job.

“I do love it. There’s been a lot of trials and tribulations. A lot of challenges where I’ve had opportunities to grow, and discover aspects of the strengths that I bring to the table that I didn’t have, specifically in crisis situations,” said Teasdell. “I’ve had the opportunity to see how teams come together during crisis, when kids are engaging in self-harming behaviors such as cutting themselves, and to discover that we’re not alone. We’re a family here.”

He enjoys seeing the kids doing well by making it through a full class period or setting goals in soccer or learning to express themselves through poetry.

“It’s those little successes that we take for granted (which) are huge and monumental.”

Teasdell sees a strength in the kids he works with, who will continue to live with their conditions long after they’re discharged.

“Sometimes we don’t realize how strong that people can be. I would say every child here is a symbol of strength (and) resilience, and they’re survivors.”