17 yr old teen, depressed, grades falling--Wilderness School?

Dear BPNers--- Please share your experience regarding a year -round school, maybe a wilderness based one (or parallel help while continuing in same school) for our depressed 17 year old, "I don't know" grandson.  He lives with parents in SoCal; they're onboard for doing something more/different for him.  Eric "was" a star pupil, excelling in the classroom and as an outstanding athlete (winning all sorts of ribbons, trophies, in both areas).  Now he cares about neither. He was in the GATE and completed  AP courses; now his grades plummet.  There is no evidence of his using drugs, not even marijuana.  NOTE: He went thru several years of headaches. None of the doctors he saw in Bay area and in SoCal ever found the cause.  He sees a chiropractor, has tried acupuncture, cranial massage... 

Oddly enough, before this huge change from being the star pupil/athlete behind the scenes husband & I found him to be rigid in everything--creepily so. He was sulky except when he'd do his fake, LOUD, laugh.  Maybe it's his admitting to not-knowing anything that makes him seem more tender, yet some times explosive too.  (PS: He refuses to take any kind of medication.). 

-----Eric spends a lot of time doing computer games.  Prefers to be alone..'though he will, occasionally, have friends over, but they play on computer together.  He got an after-school job in a plant nursery, which he says he likes. Eric was seeing a therapist, but parents set it up so he only goes when he calls & makes the appt. (He hasn;t been in over a month.)

----Is there an all year 'round, educational, wilderness school  you can recommend-- outside if California is ok--?  Do you know of one that involves the care & relating to horses?  

 Thanks so much for your time..

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I am going through similar situation with my son and we consulted with Mary, an educational consultant. She can give your parenting coaching or school suggestions. https://empowermyteen.com/

I don't have any suggestions for therapeutic/wilderness schools, but reading your description of your grandson, I'm wondering if he could have mild Aspergers Syndrome (high-functioning autism).  Rigidity is one of the hallmarks and the unusual/unnatural laugh you describe also struck me as something I've seen among kids with this disorder.  My teen with Aspergers suffers from depression and my understanding is that it is quite common at that age.  Just a thought.  

It might be worth asking his therapist if s/he thinks he might be at risk of psychosis, or taking him to a psychiatrist to evaluate for that. Of course there are many other things that could cause what you're describing (simple depression, Asperger's, etc). But some of what you describe could indicate a young person at risk of schizophrenia. There's emerging research about identifying who might be at risk of psychosis or schizophrenia and early research showing that intervening early on can help change the course for these people. 

You may want to look into what I think are the most wonderful wilderness camps ever. Farm & Wilderness in Bulington, Vermont.

They are expensive, but there are all kinds of financial aid packages available. Fantastic camps, fantastic leaders, fantastic ideology, fantastic location.

As the previous poster mentioned, Farm and Wilderness Camps (in Plymouth, Vermont, not near Burlington) are amazing - but they are regular summer camps for children and teens, not at all geared toward young adults in need of therapeutic treatment. Outward Bound, on the other hand, does offer a program for troubled teens and young adults: https://www.outwardbound.org/intercept/intercept/

I'm sorry to hear about your grandson's big change, that must be scary and also that you noticed a disconnect before.  One idea, tho this isn't the year round school, is to send him  to a YMCA camp this summer.  At age 17 he'd be eligible for either their leadership in training course or their counselor in training. No that doesn't mean he wants to end up being a camp counselor all his life.  My son goes to YMCA camps, we have tried a few in California and in New Hampshire.  They are WONDERFUL.  The staff is well trained, very inclusive friendly environment. They use chant-songing that kids and teens and even adults love that builds a sense of community - they use these chant-songs to accompany chores, while at eating at their tables as kind of an announcement to the other campers, as a way of building spirit and it works. NO electronics are allowed at all. Tons of activities to choose from, which build esteem and team work. Affordable. Well run. We've tried other camps but these YMCA camps are great.

If you do the East Coast then most of the YMCA camps are right on a lake which is nice to get all those lake activities too. Most YMCA camps are charming, with cute cabins, really most of them look just like you'd hope a camp would look. We tried the East Coast last summer in New Hampshire and loved that. Tons of activities to sign up for - no matter what your grandson's interest is.  At 17, I think he's too old for the regular programs but still eligible for a few of their programs which last 3 to 4 weeks.

Something to keep in mind is each YMCA camp is slightly different, different cost, different dates, different programs. As far as I know they don't have one webside which consolidates all this info.  It was a lot of googling to figure out - "YMCA camps New Hampshire" and did than I did that for all the New England states, looked over their websites, prices, dates, activities (which are generally similar but not completely) and so on and which had openings - most still have openings or your put on the wait list but usually you'll get it - but that's with the regular program, it could be more competitive for the leadership programs. Yes most will pick up your son at the Boston airport for a fee, I think $100? 

Anyway, just an idea for summer for a relatively affordable way to get him out of his current situation, off electronics and try something new.  I was also concerned about the headache problem but not sure what that could be. Best of luck!

My sister has just been having to look in to these types of camps for her 20 year old. We have a friend who's sun went to Open Sky and had wonderful results. Her son was 25 at the time, but they do have programs for kids starting about 14, I think. https://www.openskywilderness.com