Our son, who is now 14 and getting ready to leave Hunter, is a highly intelligent boy who strives to be kind, to learn and to make friends but reached a point of crisis in his life in which he could do none of these. Due to his autism spectrum disorder and executive functioning impairments, he was suffering from overwhelming social isolation and was not functioning academically. His angst was most apparent to his family as he pushed us away.
We searched high and low for an appropriate school. Such a school would have to have bright students who did not act out aggressively or need frequent restraints. It would need to be a residential school where our son could receive social skills training from dawn to dusk. It would need to be a loving environment that would wake up his interests.
Hunter was all that. Our son liked it and chose it for himself. I could hear the difference soon after his arrival relieved his miserable isolation. On the phone, he would tell us, “I won at Monopoly” and “We built a fort in the basement.” Over time, he began to participate in classes. Now he is learning to play the guitar. In the past, he would roll on the floor at every therapy session we took him to but now he sits up and has a serious conversation because he loves his therapist. He expresses his feelings with polite confrontations. He comes home many weekends and enjoys his family. He has even cut his nails!
We are deeply relieved and grateful to the school. It was the right place for our son at a critical time in his life, has averted a lasting state of dysfunction and has enabled him to know happiness.
Cynthia B. – Massachusetts
Raising an energetically sensitive child in a world where many are unaware of their own sensitivities is a daunting task for any parent. Feelings of frustration and alienation in social, educational and family settings are almost always present and compound the intensity of trying to meet the needs of the child while maintaining balance and order in the family system as a whole. Connecting with the staff of The Hunter School was the first time I felt fully heard, held and understood both in regard to the challenging behaviors my son was exhibiting and my sense that those same traits, in a different setting, could be nurtured into the strengths I see when I look into his bright, inquisitive eyes.
We experienced the value of a mindfulness approach in parenting as well as the disruptive effects of its lack in home, community and previous educational settings and knew that continuity in this area was a critical component to our son’s success. Finding no local options, our family made the difficult decision to choose a boarding school setting that separated us by over 450 miles. On our first visit, our son felt comfortable and immediately picked up on the difference in the way the place and the people felt to him and agreed it made sense to give it a try.
The distance has been difficult to bear for us all, but daily phone calls and occasional visits have helped us through this period of growth for our family. There is no perfect formula to meet the individual needs of these dynamic children, but the relationships built with staff at The Hunter School and their willingness to learn about my child through direct experience and our open, honest communication creates an environment where kids, staff, and parents are learning to learn together.
In these times where there is so much disconnection and misunderstanding around children, education, and parenting, it is opportunities like this that break through the boundaries of a disordered mindset to create a community of kind, compassionate and conscious individuals with the shared intent of living, working, learning and being in harmony. That’s the kind of world I want to live in, and it’s happening through our experience at The Hunter School.
Angel P. – Pennsylvania
Over the past 3 years we watched our daughter slowly start slipping away from us. Her struggles with severe anxiety and OCD associated with Tourette Disorder were causing almost daily outbursts both at school and at home. She was constantly saying that no one understood her and that we were only making things worse. She kept saying she needed more help than we could give her. After several episodes at school involving threats of self harm, her father and I began seriously researching residential treatment options for her. The thought of admitting her to a long term treatment facility was painful and just didn’t feel right to us, but we saw no other option. Then her father sent me a link to The Hunter School and asked me to check it out. It looked perfect! I immediately called to gather more information about the program. The associate director called me back and spent a hour talking with me and answering all my questions. She arranged for us to come visit the school the following week.
During our visit we saw a spark in our daughter’s eye that we almost forgot existed. By the end of the visit she was convinced it was the right place for her and so were we.
She has been at the Hunter School since the beginning of April and we are amazed at the progress she has made already. We love that the focus of the staff is to immediately recognize the strengths in each child. They quickly saw that our daughter is a natural leader and is amazing with younger children. Within two weeks she was asked to present to a group of Plymouth State college students on Tourette Syndrome. She impressed the students so much that one of them approached her father while they were eating at a local deli to tell him what an amazing job our daughter did and how proud of her he was. Since then, she has also presented to the Board of Directors and founder of the Hunter School and they trusted her judgement and allowed her to have one of the younger students help her. Because of their willingness to look past her disability, she was able to show others and especially herself what a truly remarkable person she is.
Her father and I are truly grateful for being involved and included in every aspect of her programming and treatment at Hunter School. For the first time we feel that we are also being provided with the guidance and skills we need to support our daughter effectively. As our daughter has said several times, Hunter School “really gets it!” and for this we feel truly blessed!
Shelley P. – Maine
Prior to coming to the Hunter School, my son was really struggling. Routinely having meltdowns, laughing and crying fits, and even running away from us in public places, we never knew what would occur on any given day. Fearful of leaving home, we increasingly became more and more isolated, which only fed into the feeling that there was little hope of things changing….and the only hope was to survive from day to day.
In addition to a long list of diagnostic labels, the most challenging for him and us was his severe communication limitations. For all intents and purposes he was nonverbal. We just never knew for sure what he was really thinking, feeling, and experiencing, making it all but impossible to address underlying causes for his sometimes erratic behaviors.
When I brought him up to visit the Hunter school, he almost immediately calmed down. After 10 minutes I asked him what he thought. He looked at me and stated clearly “Stay at school.” Clearly he felt different in this environment.
Within a month of being at Hunter my son began to make progress, and at the end of his first year we’ve seen huge leaps in almost every area of his development. Emotionally he is much more calm and balanced than he’s ever been. Academically he has shown competence in ways we never thought possible, and he’s thirsting for more. Socially he is thriving for the first time in his life. These peer relationships have made all the difference in how he sees himself. No longer is he isolated because of his challenges, rather he has been fully embraced for who he is. On top of all this the improvements in my son’s speech and communication is quite astonishing as compared to a year ago.
The caring and skilled staff and all these wonderful kids have given him the tools and opportunities he needed to trust himself and others. This is leading him to being open to new things for himself. We can now see a bright and hopeful future for him.
Thank you, HUNTER SCHOOL!
Jeanne H. - New Hampshire
Comments from Alumni Parents:
- “The best thing that happened for me and my child.”
- “My son has been wonderful!!! I am grateful and relieved. This is the first time since…that I have been able to truly enjoy my son.”
- “I spoke with the director of my son’s new school. He remarked how well he was able to discuss problems before they bloomed into big problems and remove himself from a situation prior to it escalating.”
- “You have shown compassion, kindness, and wisdom to my son the last two years. You are all exceptional in what you do. You have shown him he has the ability now to succeed in whatever he sets out to accomplish in the future. I’m proud to have chosen such a wonderful group of people to share my son with.”
Comments from Special Education Directors:
- “My interaction has been nothing but positive…Communication is exceptional. There is immediate contact with me when there is a need.”
- “Questions are readily answered and they follow through immediately with anything generated from my questions.. the classroom teachers show knowledge, understanding of, and a desire to do what is best for our student.”
- “…I am constantly reminded of the excellent services that the children and families of the Hunter School receive.”
- “…It is a pleasure to say that this student has made much progress, which has been possible through the caring and knowledgeable staff at the school.”