Saturday, March 5, 2016

Long Overdue Update

It's been a while since I last posted on our family's journey. I think that's because it felt to me like there wasn't much to say. Reports from school, and what we gather from Jack in our weekly phone call, are that he is doing pretty well. There are the usual issues, fitting in socially, regaining confidence in the classroom, missing friends and family. Some weeks his letters are bright and confident and sometimes he expresses his angst over a challenge that's revealed itself.

It was Jack's birthday yesterday, his 16th. It reminded me of when I was that age and all the things that rattled around in my brain. It's not hard to understand why the vibes coming out of Montana Academy are so up and down. He's a teenager, typical in some ways and extraordinary in others. Sound familiar? Does that sound like your son or daughter, or maybe yourself? We're all on a path and this is Jack's.

While it appears that there aren't many huge developments for Jack in fact there are. One of the main objectives of wilderness programs and therapeutic boarding school is pattern breaking. In recent years when school became more complicated and demanding Jack would retreat and avoid. His inability to put order to the tasks at hand were overwhelming and a source of tremendous stress. Jack would "hide" in video games and most recently drugs. His self esteem took a beating as he watched other kids out-perform him academically. His IQ, as high as it is, wasn't enough without the intrinsic organizational skills required to get the work done.

Montana Academy is expert with this condition. When he started in school his course load included Intro Art, Music Theory and Spanish. It was almost too easy. In the second block the stakes were raised as Spanish was replaced by American Literature. To you and me that still doesn't sound like much, but for Jack the American Lit class was a Goliath. His challenges with attention and ordering tasks were suddenly front and center. He spent some time on "Academic Freeze", a status earned by under-performing in school. During that time he received tutoring and help with segmenting his work into bite-sized goals. In addition to gaining a desire to avoid that consequence in the future, Jack also developed some much needed skills. His mid-block grade was a C+, just a few points from a B. Major win!

The second half of the block started a few weeks ago and again the stakes went up as Art was replaced by Biology. On our call Thursday evening, I heard Jack say, when asked how it was going, "Biology is awesome". At the moment his grade is just a few points from an A.

Again, the reason I haven't posted in a while is that it seemed as though Jack was just cruising along. In retrospect that couldn't be further from the truth. He has been making great progress. His pattern of avoidance when faced with school appears to be unraveling. He is gaining the tools and discipline needed to become successful in school.

One of Jack's secrets to making such progress is his willingness to reveal his anxiety and challenges to his group. When he come out of wilderness his mantra was "vulnerability is power". At Montana Academy that has manifested into a willingness to share his demons, allowing others, peers as well as teachers and therapists, to support him in overcoming them. While it's too early to declare "results" it looks as though his approach is working.

We don't know where all this is all going but at the moment we're proud of the progress Jack is making. We're off to see him next week for a few days. While it's nice to hear his voice once a week I cannot wait to wrap my arms around him. It'll be nice to pass some time on Jack's path.

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