News & Events : Foundation Grants

Foundation Grants $20,000.00 Scholarship—One Family’s Testimony

Each year the Foundation awards a scholarship to a special-needs student. Following their being awarded the scholarship in the spring of 2008, one mother writes of her family’s experience.

“When we first considered sending our son Andy to Little Keswick School, I asked Terry Columbus if I could talk to parents who had children at the school. Nervously, I called three parents, and each time was greeted with “Oh sure, I’d LOVE to talk about Little Keswick!” These parents were overflowing with incredible things to say about the school. Clearly, Keswick had worked for their boys. In spite of all the despair I was feeling at the time, those phone calls gave me a glimmer of hope. I remember thinking “I wish that in three years I can be on the other side of these phone calls, and be as enthusiastic about this school as these people are.”

It is now three years later, and Andy is approaching the end of his time at Little Keswick, and in a sense, my wish has come true. I am on the other side, and although it has been a long hard journey, I shudder when I imagine our lives if we had taken any other path.

As is true of many boys at LKS, Andy is a very bright boy with certain quirks that have made life difficult. At age eight, he was diagnosed with Non-Verbal Learning Disability (NLD). Shortly after his diagnosis, I read a book that described NLD as the “invisibility disability” because kids with NLD can appear very normal to the outside world, even though those of us who live with them know better. Such was the case with Andy throughout elementary school. He never strayed out of line. He was well–liked by teachers and peers, although he tended to keep his distance from kids his age. But he was never a trouble-maker, so when we would talk to people at school, there were times when my husband and I wondered if we were all talking about the same kid. Andy would behave perfectly at school, then come home and explode to the point that it was like World War III.

Life at home got very bad when Andy was in 5th grade. When he was younger, his tantrums were manageable, but as he got older and bigger, those tantrums turned into rages. We removed all the furniture from his room, because he would throw it when he got angry. Then his younger brother had an accident and broke his foot. It was during that period, when Scott was home on crutches, that I really began to be afraid. I wasn’t sure Scott would be able to defend himself if Andy went into one of his rages, which were becoming more and more frequent. Andy’s rages became increasingly intense. We made three or four trips to the emergency room with Andy, only to be told…..there was nothing they could do. Aside from piling medications onto this child, no one could offer us any help. It was at this point that we began investigating residential schools and stumbled upon Little Keswick.

As bad as things were at home, it was still very difficult to consider sending our then 12-year old son 1,000 miles away to a boarding school. When I first called Keswick, I thought I was just gathering information. I really didn’t feel in my heart that we could possibly do this. But when LKS accepted him and said they thought they could help him, we had to do some hard thinking. I told Terry that we just weren’t sure we could do it, and she said “Just think about this: if you keep doing what you are currently doing, are things really going to change?” My husband and I realized that in order to get the help we needed for Andy, we did indeed have to do something drastic. This decision was made harder in many ways because of the way Andy presented himself publicly. People at school were stunned by our decision, and only those close to us, who really knew what life was like with him, could support us through that time.

Getting Andy to Keswick that first summer was no easy feat! We literally dragged him there kicking and screaming, and when I asked what parents do each break to get their kids back to school, I was told that it generally wasn’t a problem. I wondered how that could be until that first August when I picked Andy up from Keswick, and one of the first things he said to me was: “Mom, the staff is awesome. They really ‘get’ kids.” It was then that I realized that all Andy wanted was to be understood and valued for who he was, and for what he was capable of doing. Little Keswick has given him that and more, and for that we are truly grateful.

Andy is now in his third and final year at LKS and the changes in him have been nothing short of miraculous. In our family therapy calls, we have discussions with him that we would never have thought possible three years ago. He is able to hear things in ways that really help him, and he is able to take what we say and use it constructively. Is life at home perfect when he is home on breaks? No, but that’s okay. No one has a perfect life when they have two teenagers! But life with Andy is so much more fun and fulfilling for all of us. Little Keswick School has taken our frustrated, often hostile son, and given us a boy who is starting to truly understand himself and his capabilities. We would like to thank the school, the staff and especially the Little Keswick Foundation for Special Education for making all of this possible. Through the generosity of the Foundation, we were able to get a partial scholarship for Andy this year, which has been such a pivotal year for him. I can’t imagine that there are many other places like Little Keswick School on this planet!

Now, we are exploring other schools for Andy for next year and once again, I am making those phone calls. Once again, I am hoping that I can be on the other side of these calls in three or four years, but this time, I am not in despair. I am excited about the possibilities for my son as he moves out into the world.