A Leap of Faith

Young man and his family find hope at Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch

A Leap of Faith

No matter how difficult things are at home, driving away from the Ranch without your child is not easy. 

"It was scary taking that leap of faith. We didn't know what to expect, and as we drove away, my mom heart was just sad and apprehensive," said Meredith, mother of former Ranch resident, Blaise.

Blaise, one of four children, had been diagnosed with ADHD and high-functioning autism. As an elementary school principal, Meridith made sure he got lots of support over the years, but it was getting harder and harder for Blaise to function in the family and at school.

"I was just angry all the time," Blaise said. "I couldn't find a way to deal with my anger, so I started punching holes in the walls and slamming my door."

Meridith said they were struggling to deal with the conflict and fighting. "There were a lot of things going on and we just couldn't get to where we needed to be. It was scary because you just never knew what might happen next. Every interaction was tense and loud and hurtful and negative. We were to the point where we were barely functioning as a family. I would lay awake at night and wonder how it would ever get better and if we were going to make it as a family."

Blaise's parents knew about the Ranch but didn't know if it was the answer. "Blaise wasn't doing what you might think was typical—like juvenile delinquency, running away, or not going to school," Meridith said.

Blaise's counselor, who used to work at the Ranch, helped calm his parents' fears, explained what treatment would look like, and assured them they could be involved in every step of Blaise's treatment.

So, in July, right before his junior year, Blaise's parents brought him to the Ranch.

While it was still hard, Meridith started trusting the Ranch team right away. "Even after just that first meeting with Blaise's treatment team, I felt calm and confident and knew he was going to be taken care of."

As is typical, Blaise continued to struggle at the Ranch. But the Ranch team kept Meridith in the loop and continued to show how much they cared. "They were a part of our team and wanted what was best for our child," Meridith said. "You could tell this was more than a job for them. Even when they'd call when Blaise had a bad day, they were so caring."

Family therapy was an important part of Blaise's treatment.

Meridith said, "Even with COVID and the long-distance, we were able to do family therapy while Blaise was at the Ranch. He was able to express to his therapist, Sara Vetter, what was hard about dealing with home stuff. And we were able to talk about it from our perspective as parents and say, 'Well, this is what we are seeing.' With Sara's guidance, we came to a better understanding as to what Blaise was thinking and how he perceived our actions. She helped us communicate our thoughts and expectations better."

Blaise worked hard to make changes too. He started to take responsibility for his feelings and actions and recognized how they impacted the people around him.

He said he learned a lot in Occupational Therapy that helped him identify cues that he was getting angry. He also learned skills he could use to calm himself down so he could make better choices and not have a blow-up.

A month after he arrived, Blaise started attending the Ranch's on-campus school. The tools he was learning in therapy and OT helped him at school.

"I picked up a lot of skills at the Ranch... learning to pay attention, be in the present, just focusing on what things are going on around me instead of getting distracted by other students. Before I went to the Ranch, I didn't really care about doing my homework or passing classes, but this year I'm passing. I have high grades, and it's going really well," Blaise said.

Now that Blaise is home, and completing his senior year in his home school, Meredith said he is doing well at home and at school. He likes going to school, is getting good grades, and is planning to attend college next year to pursue a computer or cyber-security degree.

"I'm not going to say it's perfect," Meredith said, "but it's a thousand times better. We all communicate so much better. I honestly don't know where we would be without the Ranch, because that seems to have given us all a reset—just that breather we needed to build our skills so we could all come back together and function as a family."

This article was originally published in Ranch Voice: Winter 2021.

Read more stories like this and explore other issues of Ranch Voice here.

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