Dear Amy & Curtis
When you first met Sara she was a very shy and withdrawn young 8 year old. She had been experiencing challenges in school with emotional and behavioral acting out. Teachers reported her as aggressive, non-responsive, lying on the floor in a fetal position, and not responsive to her school work. Sara has been kicked out of school and physically restrained. At home, (though past the age of tantrums), was displaying tantrums when emotionally upset.
Because of the behavior exhibited in school, the teachers, administrators and children labeled her as “horror," “horrible nightmare,” “out of control," “non-responsive," “not remorseful," “she did not belong," “a danger,"... etc...
Children were afraid of her. Sara has been a bully and has been bullied.
I watched my daughter from first grade onward slip away from me emotionally, behaviorally and communicatively. As I searched for answers and intervention Sara would often say “she does not know why she does what she does," “she did not belong," “she is stupid," and even to the point of “wanting to hurt herself." She went into a school system with no behavioral issues and came out with behavioral issues.
The same year and the next, Sara struggled with a family home life that was in a complete destabilization with abandonment and abuse resulting in that she was struggling in all areas of her life. The undiagnosed learning disability she exhibited was not properly addressed at school resulting in her being labeled and putting the blame on her versus giving her the right intervention. Her decreased communication skills resulted in decrease social interactions which made her often a target of bullying and being made fun of or avoided.
Yet deep inside in our home I knew a Sara that was kind and loving and loved people. She wanted to be a part of everyone and everything. She loved art, music and animals. She loves to laugh and she wants to be part of family, friends and life.
I was referred to WHY Ranch by my brother. When we first got on the property of WHY RANCH we felt it was some place special. Sara felt it too. She was very quiet, shy and reserved when first attending WHY Ranch. She had Lauren as her instructor, a young adult who had had the same challenges as Sara and now was a volunteer at WHY Ranch. Sara loved Lauren and opened up to her over their time together.
(Sara & Lauren on Sara's first day at the Ranch)
Sara had always been shy of large animals. But even in that first session with a horse she was taken to it and allowed herself to be close to an animal that size more than I have ever seen her before. She got to groom it and with the assistance of her trainer she was up close and personal. She washed the horse, brushed him and even cleaned his hooves. Uncoordinated and afraid to hurt him, yet, she was so thrilled to be taking care of this large animal. By the end of the first session she got to lead the horse out with the reins and what I saw was a transformation. She walked taller, she walked stronger, she walked with an increase stride length, she looked up and all around and she LEAD that horse, she walked with confidence and she walked with GOD.
The most notable improvement I saw from day one and quickly thereafter is that Sara’s speech always improved when she was on the ranch. It was amazing to observe.
Sara had found a place she can be successful in, a place she can be herself - limited speech and all, a place no one was going to judge her or alienate her, a place she could make mistakes, a place she did not have to know anything, be slow to answer, a place she could absorb her world around her in her time frame and be able to respond accordingly.
Sara talked about WHY Ranch all week long after her first session. She talked about it with excitement and looked forward to it every time.
Over the last two years, Sara has learned responsibility as she takes care of several animals including the chickens, the rooster and the ducks by feeding them, cleaning their cages, watering them, and washing them. She has been able to face paint horses and then bathe them. She puts away the tools, she gets wet and dirty and it does not bother her a bit! She has opened up to other adults and trainers and other "Diamonds."
Sara’s confidence grew.
Sara’s speech improved.
Sara’s interaction with animals and people improved.
This translated into increase responsibility at home with her pets, her chores and her wanting to take care of things and take ownership.
This past year has been Sara’s best year yet!
Sara’ no longer has behavioral issues in school. She is no longer written up for episodes in school of aggression or noncompliance. She has not been kicked out of school or physically restrained as before this year. With the proper diagnosis and interventions sought out by myself and along with WHY Ranch Sara has responded positively with increased grades, with increased social skills, with increased emotional skills, with increased peer group relationships, and with increased family relationships.
(Sara in the middle holding hands with other "Ranch" kids)
WHY RANCH even took into their arms my son Tommy and myself during a very tumultuous time in the summer of 2015 and allowed us as a family to come to the Ranch and have healing time around the animals and each other away from the stress of our life at the time. It was a significant tool in my family’s healing and brought us closer to God and to each other through very difficult times.
(Sara & her brother Tommy)
WHY ranch has taught Sara so much and she continues to learn when she is there, including leading others.
WHY Ranch also instills in SARA the biblical truths that she is loved and she is special no matter what.
(Sara with Peter the rabbit, a Ranch resident)
It brings us great JOY to publish this inspiring letter from the "Ranch" . . .