Many kids come to Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch wearing their toughest attitudes and with challenging behaviors. They have worked so hard to survive their trauma and trauma environments that they have lost touch with their own core. They struggle to see their true selves. They struggle to find kindness and empathy and laughter because that has been drained from their lives. They have been told they are stupid and worthless and useless and mean. These children have survived by fighting to survive. Part of their healing is learning about the good they have inside themselves.
Nolan is one of those kids. He is young and precious and has lived through hell on earth. He has a great deal of trouble with impulse control and will be set off unexpectedly. When he is dysregulated, he becomes strong and physical and uses crude language. He spits and pulls hair and kicks. That is what he did to survive. That is what he knows.
In preparation for a meeting about Nolan's care, which he was attending, Mckayla, his Ranch Case Manager, asked staff who work with Nolan to send their thoughts about what they saw in him. She told them she didn’t want notes about his behaviors, but rather what they saw in him… beyond the behaviors.
This is what they said:
- Nolan is very empathetic and caring. He has a sense of humor that can make you laugh so hard.
- Nolan is super creative and loves to color and paint. He’s a clean and neat kid, quick to clean up after himself and help clean up after others.
- Nolan is a sensitive and bright boy who is generous, caring, and sweet. He is inquisitive and wants to help, learn, and behave in situations that may be challenging for him. He is a great child, who is learning daily to better understand and react in situations that may arise.
- Nolan is a very sweet and silly young man. He has a charm and talent for making people laugh, art, and singing. He is very helpful and creative. He is considerate of his peers and staff and when he cares, he cares with all of his heart.
- Nolan is determined to achieve the goals he sets for himself. He is willing to work through the challenges rather than just give up.
- He is a creative soul who enjoys expressing himself through various forms. I thoroughly enjoy his sense of humor.
- He genuinely cares about what others think and feel. He is thoughtful and enjoys helping others.
- Nolan is always willing to help. He wants others to do well and wants to see them do well. Even if he is dealing with an agitated state, you can see the tension in him when others are being impacted by his statements or actions. It all comes from a big heart. There is so much capacity for caring in him!
- Nolan has the biggest heart. He is kind, thoughtful, insightful, and has made great efforts to ensure he is meeting his treatment goals.
- Nolan has a contagious smile. He can advocate for himself and is driven to meet his goals.
- I love that he includes everyone and is careful to say, "girl and boy power." He’s so sweet and makes me laugh.
- He’s a strong-willed young man. He cares very much about other people and he noticeably strives to be a better person every day.
On the day of the meeting, Mckayla wrote, “At the very end of the meeting, I shared my screen so everyone in the meeting could see the word document of their positive statements. I read every single word of what you sent in. I have NEVER seen Nolan smile the way he did. After reading it, I asked how it made him feel to hear all the nice and positive statements from everyone at the Ranch.
He said, "It feels really good. I didn't know that people thought or had nice things to say about me; all the positive things." and he smiled so big. I got super choked up. I'm sure others did as well. Y'all, HIS SMILE WAS HUGE AND BEAUTIFUL. He was just radiating happiness.“
Nolan will continue to struggle and work to heal. But, now he knows that the people at Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch see the REAL him.
Please keep our kids and staff in your prayers. And, Happy New Year!
In His love,
Joy Ryan, President/CEO
Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch
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