Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Included at Summer Camp

This summer I did not have Aidan go to summer school. The summer school option for him is a special ed class, and as in the past, I have chosen to not have him attend. In prior years, I've had Aidan do Intensive Physical Therapy sessions and various other therapies. Now that I have a full-time aide to help me with Aidan at home, I am able to have Aidan do some fun stuff, like summer camps. Our local park was running a summer camp program for "Preschoolers" (3-5 year olds) and "Sixers" (6-year olds). And fortunately, the very open-minded and compassionate Park Director allowed me to register Aidan for the "Sixers" summer camp. I assured the Director that Aidan would be accompanied by his own aide that would assist him in participating in all the activities. The Director pleasantly surprised me with his sensitivity to my outlook for Aidan and openly welcomed Aidan to the camp. It seems that it just takes a non-judgmental, open mind to accept individuals with special needs. And of course, any previous encounter or experience with special needs helps break down barriers, as this Director previously had. The summer before, I had called a few summer camps to see if they would allow Aidan to participate with me as his aide, and they were all resistant. Even one camp for special needs kids wouldn't have us, stating that it was primarily because they did a lot of physical outdoor types of activities and Aidan being in a wheelchair would find it difficult to participate. Boo on all them! I know that Aidan's direct participation in activities is relatively limited, but it's not so much about direct participation that I seek for him, but about giving him the opportunity to be around other typical children, learning the games and things that other children his age do and play and for him to be a part of his community.
So...lucky for me, I was able to get Connor into the Preschoolers camp and Aidan into the Sixers camp, both at the same convenient location. As Jason, Aidan's home aide, reported, the Sixers really did well warming up to him in a relatively short time. However, these last few months Aidan has not quite been his cheerful self due to some nagging teething pain...out with the baby teeth and in come the adult! (Geez, that will take years to get through all the adult teeth?!) Thus, due to the teething pain, Aidan was not always in a chipper mood. But...he sure did enjoy all the old-fashioned kid games played in the gym...Bulldog, Red Rover, Dodge Ball, etc. I think Jason, his aide, got thoroughly worked, reliving his childhood and trying to keep up with these campers. Every day when they came home, Jason looked zapped! While Aidan loved the physical games, it was the arts and crafts that he did not seem to care for. When given the choice, Aidan does not like to sit around idle too much. He always prefers to be out and about and doing stuff. Aidan's camp counselors were great too. Being that this may have been their first time having a kid in a wheelchair part of their camp, they really made an effort to include him and design activities in which he could participate. I could not have asked for better more considerate counselors.
Aidan's next and last camp for this summer is CommuniCamp. Aidan's communications therapist is piloting a camp for non-verbal, special needs kids. This invitation-only camp is designed for these kids to enjoy typical fun summer camp activities, all while incorporating the use of their communication devices. I think it's a brilliant idea! I am excited about it and have high hopes that it goes well.

*Certain names have been changed to protect individuals' privacy.

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