Autism Spectrum News offers families fresh ideas and alternatives to the ongoing quests while living with autism. The Maintaining Skills During Summer Vacation issue is a pot of gold; listing strategies, vacation supports and summer safety. I wrote this piece for ASN, as our summer experience was a stellar one; a learning curve that grew into years of wonderful memories
Change it Up: Consider Sumer Camp for Your Child’s Educational Plan
Summer Solstice defines a ritual. It is a multi-cultural event. The word solstice derives from Latin sol (sun) and sistere (to stand still). However, for children living with autism, it is an oxymoron. A wise doctor once told me that as long as my child did not plateau, there was always hope. It has been our mantra for nearly 26 years. Never, ever, stand still in your child’s plan for potential.
An IEP or Individualized Education Program is simply a guide to construct goals for a child in special education. Should those goals take place over 9 months, or 12 months? This is a rhetorical question, as logic prevails. Maintaining skills over summer vacation is as essential as eating and breathing.
My strategic role as that of mom, advocate and defender of all things possible does not give me a shingle or a doctorate preceding my name. However, it is the school of hard knocks that trumps all. I knew that if our son Paul was left to flounder over summer break that he would regress. Fortunately, logic prevailed and a summer program was put in to place during his school years.
Every year end PPT (Parent and Placement Team) meeting, it became more apparent that honing and reinforcing Paul’s skills were vital partners in his success. However, our small town environment made it difficult to create a full day of summer school for special education. We crafted hours of speech and behavioral therapies, and as the years flew by, he picked up more skills to integrate into the world. It was time for the next step.
Sleep away summer camp made the biggest difference in our son’s life. Ideally, when considering your goals for your child, make that proverbial list. What do you want summer to mean for your son or daughter? Do you want them to learn how to socialize? Do you want them to learn how to cook, swim, or simply learn to live with others? Do you want them to have an hour of education a day, working on math and language skills? Do you want them to be in a musical, even if they don’t sing? Do you want them to find a home, where their differences are applauded and behaviors addressed?
While this is not a plug for Camp Northwood in Remsen New York, it is our only point of reference and what an impact it made for Paul! He needed to earn independence and learn success. Northwood made this happen for our boy. Gordie and Donna Felt, directors of Camp Northwood, have fostered a safe environment where campers learn to know and feel proud of accomplishment. We cherish this couple as devoted and selfless human beings. They describe the participants at the camp are: socially immature, learning challenged children in need of structure and individualized attention. It is our 2:1 camper/counselor ratio, non-competitive recreational programming and intentional focus on social skill development that enables our students to experience acceptance in a thriving camp community.
While making that list, consider your child’s strengths and weaknesses. What would be the best hope for the summer’s end? Research summer camps for special needs children. Interview camps. Watch their videos. Visit camps, a year prior to your designated application time. Talk to other parents, a most invaluable resource. Lastly, trust your instincts.
Today, I asked Paul what was his favorite part of Camp Northwood. He replied “banana boating”. When I pressed him for his favorite song in a musical he participated in, he replied Consider Yourself, from Oliver.
The lyrics say it all.
Consider yourself at home
Consider youself one of the family
We’ve taken to you so strong
It’s clear we’re going to get along
Consider yourself well in
Consider yourself part of the furniture
There isn’t a lot to spare
Who cares?..What ever we’ve goin, we share!