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It’s been almost 6 months since our son graduated from Forte Strong. I would like to tell you about his journey there. Our son is a very bright boy, but never reached his apparent potential or even came close to it. He never got into any real trouble - never did drugs or alcohol or any trouble with the law. He managed to get by in high school, but college was a different story. By the time he was 24 years old, he was living at home and appeared to have little direction. He was delivering pizzas, and doing fairly well at it. At home, he was not very communicative and spent almost all his free time on the computer. He seemed to lack direction. Our relationship with him was becoming strained.
Both we and our son thought Forte Strong sounded like a program that could help him. Here are some thoughts about our experience:
- Forte Strong will not change your son. What they will do is help your son to change himself. Most likely your son will start the program expecting positive change to be somehow “bestowed upon him”. If things go well, over time he will realize that he needs to initiate change and he will make some needed changes.
- Forte Strong will have weekly calls with you. The purpose is partly to update you on your son’s progress, but more importantly to work on the relationships you have with your son. This is done in various ways. First, they will help you understand the specific personality type your son has as well as your personality type and how that plays in your interactions. You will learn about the stages in personal change and where your son is on the spectrum at various times in the program. You will learn about parent – child adult interactions and how they play out with your son.
- You will learn about the need for you to let go. You can’t control his life. He must make his own decisions and live with the consequences.
- When he gets out of the program, he should live on his own and support himself. This is a very important step that both he and you will know is coming.
- Probably the best moment in the program for me was when we had a conversation with our son on Skype about 4 or 5 months into the program. I remember thinking “I have my son back”. We had an adult conversation and he was focused and thoughtful.
- At Forte Strong he came to appreciate all that we had done for him and our relationship with him has improved immensely.
For the last six months, our son has been living in his own apartment and supporting himself. He went back to delivering pizzas and is doing a great job. He is planning to go back to school sometime next year. He got a puppy for himself and is handling it very well and it has been good for him. He still spends too much time on the computer and still procrastinates, but those issues are not as bad as they were. He also has finally learned the benefit of 7-8 hours of sleep each night. I guess you would say he has officially “launched”!
Our son Kyle is highly intelligent but socially awkward and immature. He was bullied in Jr. High and High School and we thought he was handling it well. In hindsight, it deeply affected him, He didn't feel good about who he was so he was trying to be somebody he wasn't so he would "fit in." He would put on a facade of being "Mr. know it all" to get attention, and he didn't realize what he was doing was actually driving people away.
Kyle graduated from High School with honors and received several scholarships to major Universities. He began college studying Engineering. Within the second semester he became depressed and began to fail. He had fallen into the habit of "telling everyone what they wanted to hear" and not being honest with himself or anyone else. He began e-cigarettes and light drinking just to "fit in." He already had ADHD and now the depression kicked in due to his failures. In addition, his Grandfather had a stroke. They were very close, having spent every summer visiting him in Mississippi. This further contributed to his depression.
After much research we found Forte Strong. After visiting with Matt several times we felt like this was the right place. Kyle checked the program out himself and through the interview, he too was convinced it was the right place. Kyle was ready and recognized he needed help.
We have seen a huge shift. He has been off all medications for over 5 months and is working at a rewarding job. He has enrolled back in school and wants to finish his dream of becoming an Engineer. He has learned better social skills and built friendships. The transformation from a "boy" to a "young man" is astonishing. Matt and Brook have an amazing program. The coaches really know how to reach each young man in individual ways. The "tough love" earned them respect while providing incredible mentorship for Kyle. CJ, his assigned coach, has been a great mentor, and we are certain will be a great friend of Kyle's for life.
Brook has always been there for us as parents as well. This has been incredibly difficult for my husband and I, as it is easy to blame yourself and ask "what did I do wrong!" The educational weekly parents call was incredibly helpful and gave us insight into what we can do differently to support Kyle as he "grows up" to adulthood. They also helped us "let go" enough to realize that it is about Kyle and him finding what it is he wants to do with his life. Most importantly, Forte taught Kyle to deal with his failures and pick himself up and move on and try again. The balance of the program is fabulous, teaching life skills, financial responsibility, nutritional importance, and learning from each other.
I honestly wish there was a program like this for boys graduating 8th grade to take a "gap year" and attend this program before entering high school!