Last week was Cordy’s first week of summer camp. I drafted up a supplies list for Aaron to assemble for Cordy, and on Monday he took her for her first day at a school she’s never been to. She protested a little that she didn’t want to go to this summer camp, and she missed her old school, but Aaron kept reminding her that she would have fun at this camp. At least, we hoped she’d have fun at this camp.
When it was time to choose a summer camp, we were down to two choices. One was a special-needs summer camp, where we knew she’d be accepted without question. Her autism would be taken into account and her teachers would be trained to handle any meltdowns or odd behavior. The second camp was a Montessori-based summer camp that would be filled with typical children and could pose a challenge to Cordy. The teachers assured us they had experience dealing with children on the autism spectrum, but the routine was more fluid and therefore it carried the risk of upsetting Cordy’s need for consistency.
We chose the Montessori camp. As has been proven before, if you push Cordy right to the edge of her limits, she often learns from the challenge and grows as a result. I didn’t want her in a special needs camp when I know how easy it is for her to regress. If she’s going to prove to the school system that she deserves to be mainstreamed, then she must start surviving in a class with typical peers.
Of course I was terrified. I remembered last year, when certain teachers in her summer camp made it perfectly clear that they didn’t think she belonged with typical kids. I remember feeling guilty for expecting the teachers to deal with her issues. I only wanted her to have fun and make friends. By the end of the summer, I doubted that she could name any of the kids in her class, and she had been banned from swimming lessons after several meltdowns.
This year? Totally different.
This summer camp reports that she’s a little shrieky at times, but overall is doing really well. They asked early on for tips on how to handle her, and they took our advice to give her plenty of notice before transitions and help her talk through her feelings when she’s upset by a sensory overload. There have been no calls home in the middle of the afternoon. She likes to wear her bathing suit and play in the splashing pools. When Aaron picks her up each day, she’s often playing with other kids. Best of all, she says she wants to go back the next day.
I don’t know if it’s just because she’s older, or if it’s the school’s style of teaching or just great teachers, but so far it’s working. She fits in with the other kids, she’s happy, and there have been no complaints from the teachers about her behavior. I’m hoping this experience will yet again challenge her, helping her grow beyond the anxieties and difficulties she battles everyday.
Who knows? Maybe this summer camp will make it possible to transition her into a mainstream kindergarten even faster?
Either way, knowing she’s having a great summer is one less worry for me, and that makes me happy.
Side note: Those close to me may realize I’m entirely avoiding discussing how I feel about being 34 years old as of yesterday with this post. I had a birthday. I’m a year older. Nothing much to discuss.