In May of 2018, the Boston Globe profiled the heart wrenching and ultimately uplifting story of Roberta Biscan, Community Engagement Specialist for Riverside Community Care, and her son Connor, who was diagnosed with autism and other mental health issues. The story focused on the extreme difficulty in accurately assessing and treating these co-occurring conditions, when symptoms, behavior and outlook can change daily, especially as a child matures. Roberta now serves as living proof of the power of resilience to the families she serves in her role as. In her own words, this was the journey she took to get here…
Q. How did you come to be involved with Riverside?
A. Seven years ago I was a single parent raising three children. Connor, my oldest, was eight and struggling with behaviors associated with autism, and had also been diagnosed with a potential mood disorder. And I was juggling the needs of my six-year-old twins who were negatively affected by his struggles. After Connor’s hospitalization and multiple calls to mobile crisis providers, I was referred to Riverside’s Community Service Agency and paired with a Family Partner. The support and encouragement I received and the difference it made in my life and my family’s life absolutely inspired me to help other families like mine. And so three years later when I was able to return to work, I applied and was hired as a Family Partner here at Riverside!
Q. Tell us about some of the challenges and rewards of your Riverside job.
A. The rewards far outweigh the challenges. I use my own experience to first offer comfort to a family with a struggling child, to let them know they’re not alone and that there is a light at the end of the tunnel — and then to help them become confident and strong in their abilities to advocate for their child’s needs. I am living proof, and that provides me with a great sense of gratification.
In terms of challenges, I’d have to say it’s the constant reminder of just how many parents living with a child with mental health issues are left in the dark, and how often I encounter families who didn’t know anything about the supports or services available to them. So it can be challenging at times to keep my emotions in check.
Q. What are the key elements of your life outside work that connect you most deeply to your role at Riverside?
A. I have learned that when you have one child continuously struggling, it deeply affects the family as a whole. I had to find a way to take care of myself so to I could take care of my children. I’ve experienced what it’s like to subsist in “survival mode” while managing all that comes with parenting children with special needs, as well as parenting in general. And coming from a customer service background prior to becoming a mom, I developed strong interpersonal and problem-resolution skills. These are some of the elements that enable me to connect most deeply to my role at Riverside and to successfully support the families I’ve worked with.
Q. What’s the one thing you would most like people to know about your work?
A. I am passionate about helping other families like mine, and in “paying it forward.” And I’m committed to my own personal mission to serve as a bridge to care, thereby breaking down some of the systematic barriers in our health care system that create obstacles to stability for so many of us living this life.