Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Tales from Camp Kiddo & Camp Meriwether - Monday Recap

If you're visiting Aspierations for the first time, welcome!  If you're a repeat visitor, welcome back!

Today's topic is Tales from Camp Kiddo & Camp Meriwether, a Monday recap.

For those just tuning in to our adventure, our oldest son Justin who has Asperger's Syndrome just embarked yesterday on a week long adventure to Boy Scout Camp at Camp Meriwether in Oregon.  It is right along the Pacific Ocean and is one of the premiere camps in the country as far as offerings for boy scouts.  John went along with him and will be there off and on throughout the week to help him through challenges and encourage him.  I miss them both and so does Ryan!  The camp is about 2 1/2 hours away, so it's quite a commute and I appreciate John's fortitude and dedication to Justin to be there for him.  Justin is 10 1/2 and likely the youngest Boy Scout at this camp.   (The Washington school system starts kids a year later than in California where Justin originally started school.)  He's also one of the smallest kids there so when you see him, a natural protection instinct comes out.

Ryan is currently at home with me.  Ryan was diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum shortly after he turned two and is currently on summer break from a wonderful local special education preschool that is preparing him to mainstream into Kindergarten.  As we didn't want Ryan to go all summer out of the routine of socializing with other children and practicing direction-following and safety rules, we signed him up for a locally run weekly program called Camp Kiddo.  It runs in the weekday mornings and just started on Monday.

After I published my blog last night, I finished up some work and headed off to bed making sure that I didn't set the alarm clock for 7:30 p.m. instead of 7:30 a.m.  I was allowing myself the luxury of two snoozes and I figured if I was lucky, I might get 4 - 5 hours of sleep.  (Ha ha ha ha ha!)

Unfortunately, I couldn't fall asleep right away.  In retrospect, I should have taken some melatonin but I was nervous that I might somehow sleep through the alarm and what better way to prevent that then to not sleep at all?  I had the fan on in the room because it was hot, I had the monitor on to hear Ryan if he woke up but even with both those things, I kept hearing phantom noises.  First it was noise from the Wii, then it was theme songs from game shows, then it was some of the favorite noises my oldest son likes to make when he is stimming, then it was the buzzing "X" noise from "America's Got Talent".   After I sufficiently annoyed myself and considered changing the number on my sleep number bed because that's a REALLY important thing to do in the middle of the night, I eventually fell asleep.  I'm guessing it was around 3:45 a.m. because I remember seeing 3:30 on the clock.

Then at 4:15 a.m. I was jolted awake by Ryan crying.  I rushed into his room and was informed that his water bottle was missing and that I "needed to go to the store" to get a new one.  (Naturally, I got right on that!!!)  Of course wanting to help my son, I fumbled around his bed in a half-sleep disoriented hand dance trying to find it but Ryan was right.  It was missing and it had indeed disappeared into some dark vortex.  (Probably with my missing mismatched socks!)  Oh by the way, did I say this was Ryan's favorite water cup to go to sleep with??  Fortunately what could of been a mini-meltdown was averted when I convinced him that because he was such a big boy sleeping in a big boy bed without his brother at home, I was going to go downstairs and get him a very special, "go back to sleep" (and don't call me until the morning) cup and as a BONUS (big meaning word to Ryan), it would include ice!

I don't remember much after that except tripping over something on the way back to bed and not being particularly impressed.  (Walls and furniture have a tendency to jump out at me... )

At 7:30 a.m. my alarm went off but instead of hitting the snooze, I actually got my big buns out of bed and started my day.  I was in a good mood but I wouldn't call it chipper.  I don't think I'll ever be "chipper" at that time of day running on fumes.  :-)

I went to my computer and made sure I had Ryan's introduction letter and picture ready to share with his Camp Kiddo counselors.  Many adults even with the best-meaning intentions have a tendency to freak out when you let them know that your child has autism.  There is a look they get on their face.

Micro-expressions tell all!  Sometimes it is a look of compassion, sometimes it's "poor you", sometimes it's "oh S*&!", usually it is, "okay, I want to do my best to help but I'm not sure exactly how".  We try to alleviate some of that panic, fear, confusion or whatever it is by presenting an introductory sheet that tells about our kids, about their likes, dislikes, challenges, special interests, triggers, tendencies, etc.

If I am going to entrust my child to another person even if it's just for a few hours, I want he/she to feel comfortable knowing I'm willing to partner with them and give them the information about my son they need to have the best possible experience.  So far, it has worked out really well.  I also consider it part of advocacy.

Children and adults on the autism spectrum and with Asperger's Syndrome present in so many different ways that you can't easily define what someone who is autistic is like.  Many people have preconceived notions about what autism looks like or sounds like because they have known a neighborhood kid or distant relative or person at church that had autism.  Perhaps they read a couple articles or saw Jenny McCarthy or Holly Robinson-Peete on TV.  Maybe they watched an episode of Parenthood or a Dateline special.  There is so much out there nowadays about autism and yet there is still so little understanding and common knowledge. There is so much dissention even in the autism community that it is no wonder people who do not have a personal connection with autism get perplexed!

Anyway... that's stuff is for another blog.  I'm getting a little tired here, so please bear with me!  I'm heading back on track!

Back to Camp Kiddo....  so at about 8:30 am. I got to Camp Kiddo with Ryan and dropped him off.  I had signed him up online initially but unfortunately they didn't have a printout of anything I had filled out indicating his special needs so it was a very good thing I had my information sheet with me until I had time to fill out a new set of paperwork.

I went home, power-worked (and fantasized about sleeping) and then went back to pick Ryan up, eagerly anticipating what he and his camp counselor might say.  Fortunately, Ryan did wonderful and had a great time!!  He showed off his counting skills and knack for numbers, got to play on the playground, participated in some outdoor games and did a great job listening.  He was a bit giggly and goofy but I'll definitely take that!

A surprise I was unaware of was that the kids were provided with a free lunch.  (Camp ends shortly after noon so I didn't expect this.)  Today's menu was TUNA FISH SANDWICH!  Okay, seriously, what 4 or 5 year old eats tuna fish and tomato on a sandwich??? Am I out of line here or does that just sound gross to most pre-school and Kindergarten palates? (And me?)

Ryan to his credit didn't yell out "YUCKY!!!!!!" like he normally does when foods offend him.  He apparently did take a tiny piece of the bread that was "not tuna fishy" and nibbled.  My guess is that it was a very small nibble but hey, it was a nibble and kudos to him!!!  He then ate all his carrots, drank his milk and stuck his banana in his backpack.  (This is something I'm glad I found out about from his camp counselor before we left, otherwise I would have been playing "what's that mystery smell????" later!)

Both Ryan and I are looking forward to him returning to Camp Kiddo tomorrow! I'll be dropping him off in the morning and then John should be back in time to go with me to pick him up.  I know Ryan will love seeing his Dad and I'm positive the feeling will be mutual.  We all miss Dad!

Meanwhile, from Camp Meriwether, I have some very exciting news to pass along.  Justin had a swim test today to see what kind of water activities he'd be allowed to participate in and also as a requirement for some of his advancements.  The test was in a lake and Justin has never swam outside of a pool so he was understandably nervous.  I know John will be blogging about this from Life and Times of John Krejcha on Tuesday so I don't want to take away his story telling but I just have to announce that not only did Justin pass the requirements for second class swimming but he blew past that and passed the First Class swim test as well!

He told his Dad right before the test that he was inspired by Ryan and was going to be a "flying fishy" just for him.  As a point of reference, we have a fairly large aquarium in our home with lots of fish and every night they're included in our prayers.  Ryan has taken lately to calling them all "flying fishies" and so when I heard that Justin said he was going to be a flying fishy during his swim test in honor of his brother, I was incredibly touched.  I'll let John share the rest of the story and give you the tales from Camp Meriwether but so far, it sounds like Justin is acclimating well, participating in a lot of activities and embracing lots of new challenges.  Hooray, Justin!

The big test will be when John is away and Justin has to get through routine activities on his own.  We are hoping and praying that he'll pass that test with flying colors (and flying fishies!!!!) but if he has challenges, we hope he will learn from them and use them as an opportunity to stretch his comfort zone. If you're the praying kind, please say a prayer for him for inner strength, a positive attitude, self-confidence and the ability to socialize, let go and have fun.  Thanks!  :-)

I just checked the clock and it's 1:25 a.m. (1:53 a.m. after the edits) so I'm going to try heading off to bed since I have another early morning wake-up call and quite frankly, I'm exhausted.   I really do not like sleeping alone and I hope the insomnia episode of last night is a thing of the past because I really don't need odd theme songs running through my head in the wee hours of the morning.  I'll probably just snuggle up with my favorite soft stuffed tiger and reflect upon how proud I am of my children and their successes today.  Each son came as he was and was accepted for who he was.  Each son let his light shine!!

More blogging soon!  :-)
Don't you forget to Let Your Light Shine too!  


Thanks for stopping by!
Karen

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