Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Camp Struggles

My eldest son is 7. He was diagnosed with Asperger's just last December, just on the cusp of his 7th birthday. We had known something was up for years but couldn't put our finger on what it was or how to cope. We bought books about ADD, ADHD, OCD, graphomotor dysfunction, even Autism and Asperger's but we didn't KNOW until we traveled 3 hours to a specialist, not covered by any insurances, who charged $500 to actually sit with our son and figure it all out. --and then a second $500 to help us figure out what to do with the information. But he was worth every penny. It was a relief to know the name of this thing that controlled our lives. The thing that had become so big that a question like "What accommodations do you make for your son?" had become unanswerable because...didn't everyone live like this? Joey got thrown out of no less than 3 preschools. He was "removed" from the private kindergarten that was supposed to be "WONDERFUL" after only 3 days. He was a "disruption" because he told the teacher that the year 2006 shouldn't have smiley faces in the zeros and then insisted that she remove them. He wouldn't stand on the 7 on the carpet because he was NOT 7 years old. And he loved to turn the air conditioner on and off because he loved to control the movement of the air. Taking him out of that school was that start of a great change in his life. Two willing teachers and an IEP later, my Dino Boy is doing fairly well in an inclusion classroom. I just wish that everyone could see the brilliance that exists in between random acts of eating things that are not food and his stimming habit of bouncing round the room stretching his fingers in all directions. So this was about Camp right? Dino boy and Little Man (see my other blog for that story) go to a wonderful YMCA camp. Little man loves it and Dino Boy went there for part of the summer last year too. So I was very surprised when after ONE WEEK they called me. "Ummm, Ms. Eile, We would just you to know that we are giving you warning that Dino Boy may not be able to stay at camp this summer." Now what? I,single working mother am...screwed. But we talked. Camp talked to me, I talked to ex husband. We spent the weekend talking to Dino Boy about staying with the group, not eating things that are not food, asking for help, telling people that you are frustrated instead of running into the woods, and Dino Boy got it. He really really did. And according to camp he does great, until about the time when there is 2 hours left in camp. He can't hold it in any longer. He struggles so hard to keep it together that on some days those last 2 hours cause him to overload.... And I don't know what to do about it. I KNOW KNOW KNOW that he is doing the best he can, He loves the camp SO much. We had parents night tonight and he just gushed about every activity. But I wish I could just give him a break. A place where he can lose it and still be ok, a place where he can run and play and plan his Jurassic Camp movie and just be loved. So next year...maybe I can find a special camp just for him and people like him...but is that the right choice? or should I just immerse him in "normal" teach him to swim like all the other fish? I don't have something catchy to end with...just an open question I guess. When you have a high function kid, what do you do? Should I constantly challenge him to move up or let him just coast during the summers? He gets so stressed. I just feel that its not fair but when he grows up he is going to need to deal with the outside world. Do I teach him to do that now...or wait just a bit?


  1. I feel like there is some sort of fine line...and of course this is my opinion, and only that. Keep him in the INCLUSION class during the school year where he does great, and loves it and is loved. In the summer either find a special camp for kids just like him, or let him be at home and do smaller day camps where he can be at home with you in the evenings. 7 still is relatively young, but the good thing is he is EXCITED, and he listens and talks to you and his dad about what he needs. THAT IS A BONUS. Follow your heart. It always leads you in the right direction with your kids.

  2. Oh, no its not sleep away. Last night was just mommy see the camp night. He is home every night and I wouldn't have it any other way. But thanks for your thoughts. I guess I have to year to figure it out.

  3. I try to give Spiff the summers "off" so to speak. He'll go to a day camp (it's a Kid's College)for 2 weeks but for most of the summer, I let him set the tone of our days mostly. He has to be "on" so much during the school year, I feel he should have some control over his days when he can.

    About the camp - a few suggestions.

    1. Since you have narrowed it down to a specific time of day when he begins to unravel, is it possible that an additional staff member can assist him during this time? A CIT (Counselor in Training; i.e. one of the older kids or support staff at the camp) could do this task. You can provide tips and tricks like having that person work one on one with him during a group activity, or if it gets to stressful, take him to a place he can chill out in, like the front office or an area with books or toys.

    He can also himself be a "Teacher's Assistant" during those time he's about to overload if he is up for that. I have found that sometimes when a student is beginning to unravel, if you give him/her a small task that they can control, they tend to do better and can handle the situation just a bit longer.

    Talk with the camp people. If it is feasible, see if you or dad can observe so you can offer further suggestions for the situation.

    Spiff goes to camp every year, a regular camp and the staff are incredibly accommodating. The best part is the staff knows you and Dino Boy, and over time that will help each year he goes.

    It will all work out, I promise. Hang in there.


  4. I'm thinking on this, I definitely have some thoughts here. Bare with me....

  5. Since it's happening the same time every day, sounds like he probably needs some help around that time to unwind and has probably reached his limit by then. Is there someone that can take him for a walk or to a quiet place to chill out and regroup for a while around that time?

    Our boys had the same issue at school, around the same near the end of the school day they'd both reach their limit and really start to lose it. They are in regular ed classes w/ resource support, so their resource teacher would take them to her room about that time every day, being in the quieter environment helped them to stay in control and made their afternoons go better for everyone.

    As for camps... our boys go to a local day camp for kids on the spectrum two weeks out of the summer, and we try to do at least one other camp or activity each summer. Sometimes the other activities go well and sometimes not so well (gymnastics went great last summer but not so well this year, tae kwon do a few yrs ago was a disaster, and they enjoyed art class last year, this yr we're doing a science camp, hopefully will go well).

    It's really hard to find the right balance sometimes between trying to help them stretch and giving them opportunities to just relax. You might see if your son has any suggestions... good luck!


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