It's been a while since I've posted but I wanted to quickly share how this summer went compared to previous years and how my son's Autism diagnosis last fall helped me craft a better experience for both of us. I enrolled him in ONE single day camp—solely for kids with special needs—called Camp Sunnyside / Easter Seals. Well, actually, he went to one cooking camp somewhere else in the first week of summer but as expected, it was fresh hell. So I was crossing my fingers that Camp Sunnyside would work out because I had no plan B.
What Was Different
All the camps my son has ever been to for the past five years had zero tolerance for children's disruptive behaviors. They're simply not equipped to deal with atypical kids. What was different at Camp Sunnyside was that the staff was always incredibly calm and well-trained to handle behaviors and situations like transitioning between activities, sensory meltdowns, emotional dysregulation, eloping (going off on his own away from the group), fixating on one thing, etc. You know, all common aspie traits and behaviors. I loved the fact that none of the children there was neurotypical. At the end of the week I'd also receive a double-sided page report with short notes on what activities my kid had, whether he participated, if he needed some/no assistance, percentage of food he ate, his mood, something positive in the day, and if they advised he could come back the following week. All of it was super interesting to me. As a bonus, the day camp was in a large Easter Seals park-like campus with a pond and nestled in a woodsy area.
Because nature sensory input is so beneficial, I was thrilled with the kinds of activities they offered:
1) Proprioception: Swimming, tree climbing, wall climbing, archery
2) Vestibular: horseback riding, zipline
3) Touch: Arts & crafts, water/paint battles
4) Sight: Fishing, boating,
5) Sensory integration: hiking
That said, he got in trouble often, and sometimes he was on the receiving end of a friend's bad day. However, it was overall a less stressful summer for him than at other camps. Every day I'd ask the counselors at pickup how was his day and it seemed like things were slowing going downhill each week. You know why? Because a three-month summer break is TOO FREAKING LONG, that's why. But on the very last day, as we're driving back home, I asked my son what he thought about this camp compared to the ones in previous years and he said it was the best camp he's ever been to. So there's that.
One final thought: I'd like to acknowledge the fact that he was on the same medication that has been working for him since last fall. He was on a different med last summer and no meds at all in previous years. It think being on the right meds helps a lot in terms of emotional regulation, in addition to keeping a routine as regular as possible in terms of bedtime, hours of sleep, and activities in general.
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I'm a single mom, graphic designer, crunchy mama, trekkie geek, life warrior. It's embarrassing how excited I get about food. I'm an expert in barefoot Lego fire walk.
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