autism
Kelly McArdle Story

Kelly McArdle has a lot to look forward to in 2020. She is enrolled in a Masters of Social Work program at Rutgers and has a great core-group of friends to rely on, but most importantly she has learned how to manage the mental health issues that had previously threatened her very existence.

On January 2nd, Kelly a graduate of the YCS-Intensive Residential Treatment Services (IRTS) program, returned to the group home with a gift of cupcakes and a desire to share with the youth her journey from despair to hope. It was nearly 6 years to the day that she entered the program.

Kelly, now 23, recalls her first days at the IRTS home. According to Kelly, the other residents questioned why she was there, because they thought she didn’t have any problems. What they couldn’t see, at that time, was Kelly’s inner turmoil. Opening up to the teens currently at the IRTS home, Kelly explained, “I struggled with OCD, anxiety, depression and body image issues from an early age…My issues worsened during my teens, and included self-injury and suicidal ideations.” After six in-patient, psychiatric hospitalizations, and three day programs that didn’t meet Kelly’s needs, it was determined that she required more intensive out-of- home treatment.

Kelly candidly admits that she was very upset at this turn of events. At the YCS home, she slowly started to trust the clinical team. “I began to lean on other people for the first time…I reached out [to staff] when I needed to.” She also began to keep a journal and do a lot more reading.

“I always thought that I would not live past 18, and so I never made plans for the future.” For the first time, she felt hope and began to think about her future.

Kelly revealed to the youth that confronting the behaviors she faced because of OCD was the most difficult thing she had to deal with. “In the past, I had a very hard time leaving my home because of my obsessive grooming rituals,” said Kelly. At IRTS, she learned techniques to manage her OCD, and after completing six months of treatment, she returned home. It was not an easy transition. Kelly described every room in her home as a trigger with a bad back story.

“My biggest realization was that I cannot change other people,” asserted Kelly. She encouraged the youth to focus on themselves. With a smile, Kelly added, “Stress balls also help a lot.”

After graduating high school, Kelly enrolled in Ramapo College, and lived on campus. Her advice to the teens was “Look at the short term…When I was at Ramapo, I took it one week, one semester at a time.” She also often sought the help of a program on campus to assist students with special needs.

Kelly spoke honestly about her long range view of her challenges. “I made a pit stop back to the hospital. I did this on my own because I have the awareness now to get the help I need before it gets too bad.”

“Once I realized I was going to live, I knew I wanted to help people,” said Kelly. She asked to share her story with the youth at IRTS with the hope that something in her experience would touch their hearts and give them more confidence in their own recovery. “Kelly is proof to the teens that there is life beyond the program…We are so grateful that Kelly was willing to come back and share her story of hope,” said Mary Askew, YCS Medical Director, IRTS.

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About YCS Intensive Residential Treatment Services (IRTS) Program

YCS operates two IRTS programs on the Kilbarchan and Holley campuses. They provide a psychiatric step-down continuum of care for youth who have a history of acting out behaviors, hospitalizations or disrupted placements from other facilites. The goal is to provide an accurate assessment of each child’s needs so that the YCS clinical team can develop and implement a strength-based individualized treatment plan that allows residents to regain and maintain control of their behaviors so that they may be transitioned home or to a less intensive level of care in their community.