By Sandy Naiman
(NC)—For most kids, the prospect of “going back to school” triggers excitement, nervousness and angst, but for a small subset of adolescent boys, traditional schools don't work. Some have ADHD, ADD or ODD. Others struggle with diabetes or morbid obesity. Still, others flirt with substance abuse or the law.
Each boy's issues are unique, but solutions are never easy, according to Tina Ward who sent her son Maxwell to the Robert Land Academy (RLA) two years ago. “He has Type 1 Diabetes and wasn't controlling himself properly.”
“No parent ever feels happy about sending their child away, especially when he doesn't really feel he deserves it,” she adds.
Along with Max's consistently high blood sugar, “my marks were poor and I couldn't talk to my family,” he says. Everything began changing when he arrived at RLA, Canada's only military-style school near Welland, Ontario.
“In a matter of days, I started feeling healthier and better about myself. By showing me what's important, by giving me balanced meals every day, by the exercise we had to do, the Academy helped me a lot,” Max says.
RLA students “typify a particular temperament,” says founder and headmaster G. Scott Bowman (Maj. ret.), describing them as dominant, stubborn, intuitively bright, often lazy, with powerful and extreme personalities.
“They're gregarious, effusive and adventurous in spirit,” he says. Often at odds with conventional authority, they don't like change unless they author it. Yet, “as adolescents, they're typically manipulative and can be overtly oppositional or passive aggressive.”
Genuinely empathetic with his recruits, Bowman started his school in 1978 because he has the same temperament, but no such school existed for him, he explains. RLA was established for future generations of struggling, misunderstood boys, like himself, Max Ward and hundreds of others.
“Intellectual curiosity is a constant in these boys,” Bowman adds. “It causes teachers and parents grief.”
Ward's mother credits RLA's regimentation for the “marked change in her son's health.” He eats meals at exact times, counts carbs and engages in physical activities, “all great for diabetics,” she says. “He's more athletic, more sports-minded. His marks have improved, too.”
Now his odds of managing his health and diabetes are better than ever because he is physically fit and eats well.
“Max is accountable for himself. What else can you do as a parent? You can't be there 24 hours a day.”