Ricardo: Being Seen

Ricardo had a history of frequent, violent outbursts triggered by no apparent cause: hitting, kicking, throwing classroom items, and running away from staff and peers. His public school no longer felt they knew how to serve his needs.

Arriving at Aseltine as a sixth-grader, Ricardo spent his first year under his desk. Terrified of others and the possibility of rejection, he seldom communicated, and threw himself against walls or lunged towards staff and peers when they would pass, displaying extreme behavior in both directions.

Aseltine staff were committed to reaching Ricardo and they worked tirelessly to build a trusting rapport and safe environment where Ricardo could express his needs and succeed not only in school, but, most importantly, in life. Slowly, over time, Ricardo started to come out of his shell, physically and figuratively. He began to spend time in class, interact with classroom staff and even participate within the school community from the “sidelines” – a big step.

After two years, Ricardo was making progress towards writing, reading and math goals. He was thriving and growing academically, but still remained a little hesitant when it came to social interactions with most people in the building. While Ricardo had built trust with a few, key staff that he interacted with daily, he was still very hesitant around new people. It seemed that even with the best efforts and intentions there was still a wall built around him – which he had made on his own.

Regardless of temperature or season, Ricardo wore a beanie and hooded jacket as “protection” – worried that others would “see” him, and even we began to worry that we may have reached an impasse.

We decided to first exhaust all resources before making any drastic decision. We leveraged our community-based after school Outreach Program, which allows for stronger partnerships between staff and students, applying social and academic skills in a community setting and connecting students with their local communities.

Ricardo participated in five weekend outreach activities, where he spent more time with staff and began to appreciate the freedom that comes with being a part of the world versus the restraints of his self-imposed isolation.

Ricardo learned how to ice skate and bowl – two seemingly “normal” experiences that he had never had access or exposure to. Ricardo’s self-confidence began to grow, and on his last outing he requested that he get a haircut “to be new”.

Ricardo now “sees” himself and his full potential, and he is consistently at the top of his class both for his academics and behavioral scores. Ricardo has even taken on additional responsibilities not required of students like managing breakfast and lunch setups and inspections.

Ricardo still struggles with new people and interactions, but has made great leaps and bounds during his time at Aseltine. It is in no small part due to the unique programs Aseltine offers and our dedicated staff that Ricardo continues to make progress today.   

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