Robert DeLena was out of ideas. He was baffled by the responsibility of taking care of his his 8-year-old son, Ryan, who had difficulty controlling his emotional outbursts.
Even as a toddler, Ryan’s inner intensity and defiance prompted Robert and his wife, Mary Beth, to seek professional help “to nudge him onto the traditional pathway for success.” Thus, Ryan’s affliction led to his placement in therapeutic classrooms at a very early age, schools that utilized detrimental methods of behavior modification.
That included physical restraint and the constant threat of it.
It was a process that the DeLanas shied from using at home in Sudbury, Mass., even as officials at a handful of local schools and programs would insist it was the only way to try and control their son’s behavior. Away from school, Robert instead tried to keep his son’s mind open to new activities, keeping him active and interested. He would plan frequent trips to Boston’s Museum of Science, the Children’s Museum, or the New England Aquarium — activities that killed time. It wound up being the quiet ride to and from a destination — while his son watched a DVD in the back seat of the car — that often was the most enjoyable aspect of the trips, Robert said.