Shared from Amanda Orgel Ferguson’s blog A Life With Ted
It has been a bit since I have written. Life has been relatively calm the last few days. A major reason for that is that Ted is off at camp for 3 ½ weeks. No, it is not a special needs camp. He attends the same faith based camp I attended as a child. This is his sixth summer there and we love it.
I get a lot of questions like: How can you send him for so long? Don’t you miss him? Doesn’t he get homesick?
Here are a few answers. I send him for so long because that is the session the camp offers and it is important to me that he attend, develop relationships with others, learn to be independent and know he will be ok if I am not there, be forced to make choices for himself, grow both personally and spiritually and learn to make it in a typical environment. Yes I miss him a lot and yes he gets homesick. A few years ago I got a letter that simply said “Dear Mom, I have stayed at camp too long that is all I have to say. Love, Ted. “But I know that this is a great opportunity for him and I know he is safe and they will call if there are any problems. I also know that it is ok to be a little homesick. In fact it is perfectly normal. I also know that kids, especially kids with autism, sometimes require a little push and tough love in order to make the next step to being able to live in the world independently. It is my belief that this is a skill he gains in leaps and bounds at camp.
We have been beyond fortunate that the director and staff of the camp have worked with us to accommodate Teddy’s needs. They assign extra staff when needed, often giving him a one on one shadow but also allowing him the opportunity to be on his own at every moment when it is possible. They treat him just like other campers while allowing him to have the support he needs to be successful. They provide opportunities for him to make his own choices and explore activities he would otherwise not have access to. He is allowed to step away from loud or overwhelming activities, while being encouraged to try new things. The camp has provided great feedback each year to help us make our decision about sending him the next year. It has been a trial and error process, but now the camp staff and returning kids know Ted and he knows them and it is like a homecoming each summer when he arrives.
So yes, it is hard for us because we miss him. And yes, sometimes he does get homesick. But he loves the activities, has become close with other kids (including cousins he does not often see because they live in another state), and truly has fun. Why would we not push him? Why should life be made simple for him? As neuro typical people we face challenges and become stronger by learning to overcome them. That is how life works. He is learning that same thing in a safe and nurturing environment.
Plus, the hubbs and I get some respite and time to reconnect. If you are a parent, special needs or not, you know how important that can be. It strengthens and recharges our marriage and makes us better parents in the long run.
Hooray for camp!!!