For a parent, it can feel helpless to see your child try hard to fit in, make friends, and succeed in school – only to struggle in class and be bullied by others. Knowing how fragile a child’s confidence is, Doris knew her son Branden needed a change of scenery. What made a difference was Branden’s enrollment in Sierra Academy of Scottsdale.
Struggles in a Traditional School
School can be a challenge, even if you’re a friendly, funny, and outgoing kid like Branden. As any parent of a child with autism can attest, other kids aren’t always as accepting of those with learning differences. This is what Branden encountered in a traditional school setting from a young age.
He struggled to fit in, and by second grade Branden’s mother Doris knew the issue was serious. “It is heartbreaking as a parent to watch your son develop a negative self-image because he does not fit in or feel as smart as other students,” said Doris. “He was an easy target for bullying, and it destroyed his ability to trust people.”
Branden fell behind in class and did not grasp the work at the same pace as other students. Frustrated, Branden would leave class or simply refuse to complete his schoolwork. “We were not seeing Branden make the progress that other classmates were making, and we knew his confidence and self-esteem were impacted,” said Doris.
The Impact at Home
The daily routine for Doris and her family became something along the lines of: pick Branden up from school, spend evenings “trying to put him back together” after his school-related breakdowns, wake up the next morning, and repeat. Branden became frustrated more often, leading to intensified acting-out behaviors. Predictably, the escalated behavior led to problems at school, which further impacted Branden’s family.
“I would cringe when I saw the school calling,” explained Doris. “It was tough balancing my job and supporting Branden. My workday was constantly interrupted when there was an issue at school.”
At this point, Branden’s family knew that it was time to find the right place for him – a school where he would receive the support necessary to be successful and reach his potential. Referred by his district, Brandon entered Sierra Academy of Scottsdale during eighth grade.
Making That Critical Connection
The staff at Sierra Academy of Scottsdale knew exactly how to engage Branden and bring out the best in him, and the turnaround was amazing for Branden’s family to witness. “The team at Sierra understood how to connect with Branden and help him see his value,” said Doris. “He felt like he belonged. It warmed our hearts to see him smiling again. We always knew that kid was inside.”
Now, instead of breaking down at home after a terrible day at school, Brandon loves telling his family about his day at Sierra Academy of Scottsdale and the success he’s experiencing – a refreshing change for everyone. And while there are still occasional challenges, Branden has made friends and he knows his teachers truly want the best for him. “When I talk to his teachers, I know they care about my son,” said Doris. “It makes a big difference.”
As Branden has settled into a comfortable and accepting environment at Sierra Academy of Scottsdale, it seems he may have uncovered something of a special talent. “He has become something of an aspiring stand-up comedian,” laughed Doris. “Branden has learned how to start conversations and build relationships with funny ice breakers and puns.”
Words of Wisdom
As Doris so accurately described her situation, “it is a lonely and stressful journey as a parent of a child with autism.” But she’s grateful for the Sierra Academy of Scottsdale and encourages other parents and caregivers in similar situations to not give up…because there is hope.
“Just because it did not work at the last school does not mean your student is a failure,” Doris stressed. “The team at Sierra knows how to help, and it’s not just the students who benefit from Sierra…but also their families.”