Skip to main content

The Bike

Guest Blogger
Jennifer C. Jones

It wasn’t a big deal, really. When the few friends he had rode off on their bikes, Brandon stayed behind. When his younger siblings learned to ride and felt the exhilaration of youthful speed and freedom, Brandon only imagined. No big deal. He didn’t care. He had explosive outbursts of anger about many issues. Why should this be any different?


Bright and gifted with an amazing ability to memorize, 13-year-old Brandon struggled with poor physical coordination and social skills – two hallmark characteristics of children with Non-verbal Learning Disorder – or NLD. His outbursts at home were becoming more frequent and more violent.

Matt Child, LCSW at Discovery Ranch, says, “Brandon’s parents were wonderfully supportive. They love Brandon dearly.” So much so that they sent him to a wilderness program for help.

The rigorous physical work of backpacking, bow and drill fire building, and cordage, did wonders for Brandon’s self-confidence. His parents were encouraged with his progress. But they realized Brandon still needed help. They sent him to Discovery Ranch, a residential treatment center in Mapleton, Utah.

At the ranch, Brandon continued working through his difficulties with Child’s help. One of the most profound aspects of his therapy took place not in a building, but on a bike.


During one of the family counseling sessions Brandon’s father mentioned is son had never learned to ride.

“We decided that might be a tangible place to start,” Matt says. “We asked Brandon, ‘Do you want to learn to ride?’ Encouraged by his physical successes in the wilderness program, Brandon said he did.”

Staff member Leslie Giles borrowed a bike from her son. The three of them found a spot near the barns.

“When we first went outside there was a group of kids out there. I thought maybe Brandon might be embarrassed and want to find a different spot,” Matt recalls. “He asked, ‘Why move? We can do it right here. I can’t ride a bike but I’m not embarrassed about it anymore. I’ll do whatever I need to to learn how.’”

Matt and Leslie pushed and cheered and helped dust Brandon off when he fell. Finally, they were able to let go of the bike and Brandon took off on his own. As the days passed Brandon’s confidence and skill grew. If there was an errand to run on the ranch he volunteered, always riding the bike. Then the three of them devised a plan.

Parents Conference was coming in a few weeks. Brandon’s parents were coming to visit. Why not surprise them with his newfound skill?

“The hardest part was keeping it a secret,” Matt admits. Finally the day arrived. While Matt took Brandon’s parents to a pre-arranged spot, Leslie grabbed a video camera and hid near some trees. Brandon went to get the bike.

As his parents rounded the corner Brandon came riding out to greet them on the bicycle.

“His parents were astonished,” Matt says. “They all hugged and wept.”

Perhaps a bike really is no big deal. But Matt says the bike is a symbol of what happens at Discovery Ranch. In his therapy sessions with Brandon he uses the experience with the bike to help Brandon understand other challenges he faces. That’s how experiential therapy works.

“Brandon still has lots of miles to go,” he says. “But he’s learned you can step up to the challenge. You can conquer.”

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Fishing...It's really about relationships!

By Stephen C. Schultz Spring is in the air and that well known feeling of wanting to get out of the house and go fishing is surging through my body. I found myself in a sporting goods store the other day perusing the fishing lure isle. I was in the yard after mowing the lawn and realized I was walking around my small 12 foot fishing boat that is still covered from winter. I have had people ask me over the years, "What's so fun about fishing?". They usually follow that question up with, "It's so boring!". From my perspective, they couldn't be further from the truth. Fishing represents so much more than being entertained. It's time in the wilderness with fresh air and solitude. It's time to think and ponder on life's problems.  It time to express gratitude and count your blessings. There is also the satisfaction of reading the water, observing a hatch and placing a lure or fly in the perfect spot. It's the excitement of the fish

An Open Letter to Parents Researching RedCliff Ascent

By Stephen C. Schultz "We will be known forever by the tracks we leave." Having been raised in Oregon, I spent the majority of my childhood and teenage year’s steelhead fishing the coastal waters, climbing the Middle Sister in the Cascade Mountain Range, drifting the McKenzie River and hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.  I have mentioned to friends, family and colleagues on many occasions;   “From a therapeutic standpoint, there is no better place to have a student’s issues manifested quickly than in a wilderness setting.” The question then becomes, “Why do therapeutic issues rise to the surface in an Outdoor Behavioral Healthcare program like RedCliff Ascent ?” Throughout the years of teenage development, most teens spend a lot of time with friends. These friends think the same, dress the same, act the same, listen to the same music and sometimes get into the same types of trouble. Some teens also develop patterns of communication and ma

"Sugar and Spice" - A Child's Kindness

By Stephen C. Schultz I recall a childhood rhyme that went something like this; “…sugar and spice and everything nice…that’s what little girls are made of!” As the father of three daughters and one son, there is no doubt about the truthfulness of that saying. I was in San Diego a couple of weeks ago with my family. We were down at Seaport Village right on the bay having lunch. It was a beautiful day, sun shining, light breeze and we were eating on an outside deck. We were engaged in a conversation about what we wanted to do later that day when I noticed my youngest daughter, a fifth grader, was focused on something else. So, I turned to see what she was gazing at. She was following the movements of a transient man who had walked up onto the deck and was systematically searching the garbage cans for food. He was looking in each receptacle and reaching in to move the contents around. At one can, his hand came out with a partially eaten sandwich of some kind. He reached back