If your community is like ours, you probably have been inundated with flyers for camps, classes and activities all geared towards summer fun for your children! I am torn when it comes to summer plans for our autistic son. On the one side I don’t want to hold him back by not putting him in a general camp for normally developing children, but I also don’t want to put him a group where the instructor doesn’t understand his needs and therefore he doesn’t get much from the experience. But on the other side I question his need for a special needs camp? He is extremely high functioning and interacts with other children very well, so special needs camps seem like a bit of overkill. Argh! What do we do? Do we just drop him in Vacation Bible School and tell no one of his problems, hoping for the best outcome? Or do we pick our Recreations and Parks, where we could ask for a one-on-one aid for him at no extra charge? Maybe we find a special needs camp where we know he will get the support he needs, but may not be given the independence we crave for him? The possibilities and choices seem endless and yet I still have no clear cut idea as to where he would best succeed and get the most enjoyment from the experience. Who knew summer breaks were so difficult?
Truly we are extremely lucky to live where we live because we have several wonderful opportunities all around us. Matthew and one of his brothers are currently taking swimming lessons from a local swim school specializing in swimmers with special needs, and this summer they have a camp in which both he and his normally developing brother could participate. We also have found a martial arts studio where the instructor has worked with all sorts of children and has developed an adaptive martial arts style where Matthew could fit into a regular class. This seems ideal and may be one of our favorite possibilities. Other great opportunities include therapeutic horseback riding, a sensory camp run by a local occupational therapy group, social skills groups and possibly my favorite idea of all – Surfers Healing. The beauty of Surfers Healing is that they are surfers who volunteer their time to take your ASD child out on a surfboard and help them feel the magic of the ocean. I get a little teary eyed whenever I think about it. How beautiful is that?
So if you don’t have summer plans may I suggest you check out your local Recreation and Parks, as I said ours has one- on-one aids (at no extra charge) for special needs children, or speak to your service providers since many of them have camps specifically designed to help work on typical autistic needs such as gross and fine motor skills and sensory problems. If your child has a special interest such as music, speak with a local music teacher and see if they can help you find a program or instructor that will work with your child. We have a yoga instructor that comes to our home weekly to help Matthew. She was kind enough to help us work out a payment option that we could afford simply because she loves working with Matthew and wants to be part of his recovery team. There are service providers that have social groups where your child can work on making friends and making conversation; critical for ASD children. There seems to be limitless possibilities, if you just start looking. Have a wonderful summer, and get planning now!
Maryann DellaRocco is the mother behind the blog Matthew’s Puzzle, which chronicles her journey into the world of autism and biomedical interventions. She is married and has three boys, her oldest is on the spectrum. Follow her on Twitter: @mehmig.
Photo Credit: Summer Camp – Mehmig’s Album, Photobucket, March 31, 2010