July 2: Turtles and Sharks

This summer, Sam is a shark and John is a turtle — how apt.

They are attending the same summer camp — different groups, but still — it’s the first time they’ve been together since they were two. The kids are divided into groups according to ability, not disability, and whether the organizers intended it or not, the group names say a lot: Frogs, Turtles, Dolphins, Sharks.

Sam is a shark. He swims the social waters, always seeking the next experience, a new friend. Motivated and persistent, he never lacks for something to say. He is in one of the more advanced groups with boys his age and older.

John is a turtle. He lives inside his shell, he moves at a slower pace and is happiest with his own company. Everything must be examined closely, lovingly, preferably lined up on a counter. He is in a mostly younger group with children of varying disability.

We wanted to take a gamble with John: what would happen if we gave him a less structured environment. What if we said no to ESY, to a 1:1 ABA program — would he flounder and withdraw or would he swim?

It’s only been a week, but every day I hear he did something new: he intently observed, he sang songs with the others, he followed directions. Today, when called, he participated willingly.

There may be some shark in that boy yet. Love, love, love him.

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