My son was diagnosed with several issues including, but not limited to ADHD and Disruptive Behavior Disorder. He was struggling in school academically, socially, and emotionally. I was constantly getting calls about his behavior and, eventually, given an ultimatum of shape up or ship out. At home, things were even worse. He would have violent verbal and physical outbursts which involved property damage and threats of harm to others. On occasion he would run away. This was all before the age of 12, and he was not getting any smaller.
Nothing seemed to work… Intensive individual and family therapy, tutors, special schools with small classes and extra support… nothing. Finally at age 12 ½, he had an outburst so severe that we had to involve the police. He confessed to the police officer that he had thought of suicide, among other things. The next week he was in Wilderness.
During his stint in Wilderness, I was able to visit several therapeutic boarding schools across the country. Cherry Gulch, while far from our home on the East Coast, seemed like the perfect match. My son went directly from Wilderness to Cherry Gulch and spent 20 months there. The transformation was miraculous. He became more empathetic and self-aware. His brothers and I worked with the Cherry Gulch therapist as well as our home therapist to figure out how we were contributing to the problem.
There was always some regression during home visits, but each visit was a learning experience and things steadily improved. By the time he graduated, he was a different kid. He was still quirky and idiosyncratic, but it has been years since we’ve seen a violent outburst.
Both his Cherry Gulch therapist and home therapist felt that my son needed more support than I and the school system could provide at home, so my son went directly from Cherry Gulch to begin 9th grade at a boarding school in CT. The Woodhall School offers academic, social, and emotional support with extremely small class sizes of 4-6 boys. It is not a therapeutic school, but rather an extremely supportive college preparatory school. My son is now 15 and a sophomore. He has been very successful academically and socially in this environment. Home visits, while not perfect, have been very positive. He spent his entire summer vacation of 3 and ½ months with the family engaging in activities such as camps, volunteer activities, travel, and his first job. He is beginning to look at colleges!
I am so proud of my son and so fortunate to have found Cherry Gulch. If you had asked me if any of this were possible three years ago, I would have said no. I do not know what the future holds, but I am extremely hopeful!
We have lots of great stories to tell. It’s time we told them.
NATSAP has begun highlighting the stories that we have received from parents and former students. Please send your stories to firstname.lastname@example.org and as always feel free to peruse the Journal of Therapeutic Schools and Programs for the hard data that we love so much.