Tag - camp

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July 20: Ready for Camp and Hanging the Dog
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July 2: Turtles and Sharks
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Camp Capers
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The Worry Mom

July 20: Ready for Camp and Hanging the Dog

My little boy, who are you? This morning you gathered your friends and while you stood in your PJs — for it was still only 7:30 — you looked up at me and said “Go to camp? Ready for camp?” It was all I could do not to smother you in kisses. Your words shoot from your mouth with an uncommon ease these days, could I be imagining it?

You run into my arms at the end of your camp day and grin. You are ready to go and say “Sam?” because you know we will walk down the hall and get him next. I watch your eyes dance when you spot him and he spots you. You jump up and down until he nears and throws his arms around you. It makes me smile because it stills you, even if just for a moment.

They tell me how the two of you pass each other in the hall or outside in the playground and how Sam will stop in his tracks and yell, “That’s my brother!” and then how you smile with delight. How I want this for you, not just this summer, but all the time. Why can’t we have this all the time?

Today we arrive home and after we’re barely inside the door, you say, “John’s bed? Okay…let’s go.” You are impatient as you pull me towards the stairs. Your other hand clutches an art project — the paper dog you made today. I’m not sure what we’re doing, but I follow, curious to see what you have in mind.

Imagine my surprise when you go directly to the head of your bed where I have hung your artwork over the past year. You hold up the dog — the one you made today with scissors and fingerprints for dots, the one they told me you loved making — and say “Hang dog?”

The pieces I’ve hung over your bed are the most colorful ones that came home last year, the ones that made me smile and I hoped made you smile too. I pulled them from your backpack, remnants of a day I did not get to witness, and feared you had little to do with their creation. You’ve never noticed them hanging there — or at least that’s what I thought.

My little boy, who are you? I see you opening up before my eyes and I’m humbled by the sight.

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.

Camp Capers


Amidst the intensity of John’s home program, Sam finished his first week of summer camp…and loved every single minute of it. There were worries: the night before his first day he tossed and turned and would not go to sleep. Finally I went in and he said “Mommy, I’m scared for summer camp.” But the next morning dawned and he was game. As soon as he saw the other kids and the toys — so much like his classroom — he barely waved goodbye.

The camp is run by a group of occupational therapists and most kids are on the spectrum somewhere. There are a handful of ADHD and ADD kids too. What’s great is they get intense OT and speech 2 to 3 times per week. Talk about immersion. They also are helping Sam regulate his body with something called the “Alert Program” which teaches that the body is like a car engine and sometimes it’s slow or fast and sometimes it runs just right. This, of course, turns out to be the best analogy ever, since all things Engine are dear to Sam’s heart. All weekend we’ve been checking in with him and he has the same report: “My engine is fast!”

He is also learning, at last, to ride his tricycle. We’ve had a shiny new Radio Flyer for over a year that he has not been able to learn, despite our best efforts. But at camp, three people run alongside him to help him turn the pedals and steer. Tae kwon do, swimming, arts & crafts, music & drama, bike riding. He is one tired boy by the time bed time rolls around.

Would you believe that potty training has been a non-issue at camp? He went on the potty all week, even asked to go to the potty — except for one tiny accident. Which tells me that I’m a sucker at home and that he has me twisted around his little finger. I must become a hardass I guess.

While Sam is having all this fun, John and I — just the two of us — are heading to the neighborhood pool in between ABA sessions. It’s such a treat to glide with him through the water, his face alight with joy. Just as he does with physical games like tickles and chase, he comes alive in the water. Despite my misgivings, he’s doing really well after one week of ABA, and saying the most amazing, random things, like “Turtle. Scary!” and “Outside,” as he drags my hand to the door.

We’re off to a great summer, my boys and I.

The Worry Mom

The Summer Camp registration deadlines are completely designed to send someone like me over the edge — someone who continually and irrationally worries about things that may or may not come to pass, driving her husband crazy with her ability to work herself (and him) into a tizzy based on very little information — but a lot of precedent.

The word around town is that if I want to get one or both boys involved in a summer camp, the time to act is now. My ability to do this is complicated by not knowing if either will qualify for ESY services until their May and June IEP meetings. You’d be surprised to hear that I’d rather pull out my toenails than pick up the phone and just ask (see above). But I did, at last, because who is their #1 advocate? And my husband begged me, and because — my god, why shouldn’t I be able to do that. The general consensus is that John will most likely get ESY but that Sam may not. (ESY being granted only “if skills acquired during the school year could be lost during the break”).

There is a whole other tangent I could go off on here — how there’s a listserve for parents of kids with special needs in our county and how I hear — daily — about the angst that others are going through RIGHT NOW with respect to services for those kids. Sometimes I feel like I’m biding my time in line, waiting for the school district to come right up to me and say “Your turn! Screw you and your special needs kids. No, you cannot ask for ABA (or speech or what-have-you). We are out to get you.” But I’ll save this tangent for another post.

So ESY is just four weeks during the month of July. We are flanked on either side by three vast and vacant weeks with No Order. No Structure. No Routine. While that is manageable for Sam, it is unprecedented for John and has kicked the Worry Mom into high gear. Do we want to see him stop singing the Backyardigans song? Do we want him to build on the latest flurry of words yelled out: ball, snowman, foot? How can I live without the amazing eye contact, still fleeting but so beautiful?

I’ve now logged dozens of phone calls to different speech and language camps, OT camps and sensory integration programs. I am shocked to learn that most require a hefty screening fee just to meet us whether they accept us or not. I am discouraged to learn that there doesn’t seem to be a camp suitable for where John falls on the spectrum — all require a certain verbal ability that he has not mastered yet. So it looks like we are going to set up another home ABA program to fill in the gaps while Sam goes to a camp in the mornings.

I’d start worrying about how we’ll pay for all this, but this Worry Mom knows when to shut down for awhile.

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