Ready to Graduate

Gifford Graduate Accepted to UMASS Lowell Honors College
Posted on 06/23/2016
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This article was published by the Weston Town Crier on June 23, 2016.
years, Alex Ristuccia, 18, of Waltham, struggled with seeing other people’s points of view. It wasn’t until he was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome and attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder that he began to get the services he needed. Ristuccia began attending The Gifford School in Weston when he was in elementary school, where smaller class sizes, individualized instruction and the supportive, inclusive environment helped him flourish.

June 21, he graduated from The Gifford School, one of 86 maaps, (Massachusetts Association for 766 Approved Private Schools) member schools that offer educational and clinical services for students with special academic, behavioral and emotional needs.

the last three years, Ristuccia has been an active member of the school’s student council and a player on the football, softball and basketball teams. The confidence he gained from these experiences encouraged him to push himself further academically and take the SAT and the SAT II, a unique accomplishment for a Gifford student. 

Outside of the classroom, Ristuccia volunteers at Buddy Dog, a local no-kill animal shelter where he socializes the animals to prepare them for adoption. “I’m impressed with how far Alex has come,” said his mother, Karen. “He used to be very concrete in his thinking and inflexible. Thanks to his work at Gifford, he has developed a greater understanding of other people’s perspectives, as well as his own abilities.”

Jake Sprague, Ristuccia’s math teacher and student council advisor said, “Through his work on the student council, Alex has developed a greater ability to understand the perspective of others,” a skill that does not come easy for children or adults with Asperger’s. Sprague also pointed out that “Alex used to get stuck for days on minor issues but he has learned to accept the things he can’t control and move on.” Sprague believes that it’s Gifford’s consistent structure across its three schools and the dedication of the staff that have helped children like Ristuccia overcome their challenges and realize their potential.

In the spring, Ristuccia participated in a dual enrollment program at Gifford and Brandeis University to take an anthropology class. Using the self-advocacy skills he learned at Gifford, he arranged with the school administrators at the beginning of the semester for more time to complete his midterm exam, a common accommodation for students with special needs. “I loved the course,” said Ristuccia. “It gave me insight into what college would be like. I received college credit. It taught me to advocate for myself and learn more about how to write in college.”

This summer, Ristuccia hopes to work for the city of Waltham’s SummerWorks program in the engineering department.  He was accepted to UMass Lowell Honors College this fall where he would like to pursue his passion for engineering.

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