I'm so happy YOU ARE DONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
There. I think that's enough exclamation points.
I had a lot of anxiety over sending Jack to camp. I whined it out here, and here. Sure, I had the usual MOMMY-CAN'T-SEPARATE-FROM-HER-WIDDLE-JACKY-KINS kind of angst, but I was also super stressed on Jack's behalf, because I knew that he would not be pleased about going, and he probably wouldn't love it while he was there, thanks to having inherited my MALCONTENT GENE.
I had this bright shiny hope that Jack would be in a nice, judgement-free environment, with other little quirky dudes just like him. I imagined that there would maybe be a kid who knew all the classical composers, or who wanted to talk about the Bolsheviks , or have a really good convo about Gerry And The Pacemakers, or The Who.
What if Jack had met a little guy who said; "I draw all day long too!!" What if he had met someone who was equally as nervous as he was? What if he met someone who had to jerk his body uncontrollably when he was really stressed or really tired? WHAT IF THERE WAS A WHOLE GROUP OF KIDS WHO DIDN'T GET ANNOYED AT JACK?!?
Waaaait a minute...
Am I an idiot? Did I forget what high functioning Spectrum/Aspergers kids are like?!? They might be among THE most intolerant kids on the planet! Okay, that's a fairly hyperbolic statement, but seriously! Do these kids have an abundance of PATIENCE? UH, NO! And, are they not renowned for their great lack of empathy? What the hell was I thinking?!?
The first day of camp was really bad. It was a big transition for Jack. It was new and frightening. The afternoon swimming session, he told me, gave him a headache. In the evening he was so tired out and distressed and filled with despair that I felt awful for him. He had so much anger. A boy in camp, Jack told me with great interest, had "body contact" with one of the counselors. This means the kid was having a meltdown, and trying to beat the shit out of the counselor.
Okay, this was a good learning lesson. See, Jack? There are other kids who feel as frustrated as you do sometimes, right buddy? However, it was fascinating and horrifying to Jack, because while he freaks out on his family, he never does in a public setting, or on a stranger. Plus, he's really big on THE RULES.
Tuesday was much better. I think Monday was hard because it was new, and then Tuesday was good because I felt that Jack had had a real sense of accomplishment. He'd conquered two whole days of camp. After dinner, we went swimming at my sister's. On the way back to our house, Jack told me that the same boy who had freaked on Monday, punched him in the back on Tuesday.
My immediate reactions were horror and anger. That protective mother thing reared up, and I was all ready to march into camp the next day and bitch someone out for not letting me know this. Jack had simply been thinking of something funny that had happened at home, and chuckling quietly. This kid got a look of rage on his face, hauled off and socked Jack in the back. Just let ME get my hands on this little shit and...
Waaaait a minute, karen. Remember which kids are in this camp? Yeah. The frustrated, intolerant ones. You know how you're always hoping for empathy and understanding for your OWN kid? Yeah. Remember that, because that little guy at camp probably has some big stumbling blocks he has to deal with every day.
So, I gave Jack some tips on how to deal with anger like that. I told him he should tell the kid to calm down, and they'd try again. You know--talk it out. If that didn't work, I told him to stay away from him, and if that didn't work, he had to tell his counselor, though he probably should let her know anyway.
The next days were hard. It was incredibly hot out. While they went swimming every afternoon, the mornings were filled with games geared toward social interaction; board games, cooperative games, etc.
I asked Jack one day after camp; "So, was there anyone fun to swim with today?"
Jack: "I didn't swim with anybody."
Me: "did the kids all have fun in the pool together?"
Jack: "nobody played with anybody!"
GAH! Once again, I had forgotten. What is one of the calling cards of Autism Spectrum Disorder? LACK OF SOCIAL SKILLS.
So, basically I had put Jack in this camp, hoping he'd have fun with a group of boys his age, and nobody wanted to play together.
AND, on one day, this other boy in camp said to Jack: "if you do it again, I'm going to punch you right in the face." I don't know what "it" is. He also said to him, in a really disgusted tone; "thanks a lot, Jack. You just ruined my WHOLE DAY." This was quoted back to me by Jack.
This troubled Jack immensely. He is frightened by anger (though at times a very angry boy himself), and finds these kinds of confrontations appalling. Once again, I told him to just steer clear of these kids, and if they bothered him, tell the counselors. Jack pleaded with me not to make a scene and tell them. After all, he's reaching that age wherein too much MOMMY INTERFERENCE causes great embarrassment.
So, finally camp ended. I was completely worn out from empathizing and fretting all week. I had to rethink what gains we had made from camp, since my original hopes and expectations turned out to be unrealistic.
"Why did you want me to go to camp?" Jack keeps asking.
Well, I told him, it was a good thing because it got him out of the house. All he wants to do is stay inside and draw if he's not swimming (lucky thing there's a pool right across the street!!!). I said it showed him that he is stronger, and more capable than he thought he was, because he stuck it out. He did it. He should be very proud of himself for accomplishing something he thought would be scary and difficult. I also said it was good for him to see what other kids who have Autism might be like, and in that regard, he learned that there can be other kids who are "much more Autistic" than he is. It's good to develop coping skills in this hard old world. So I guess he'll take that with him....hopefully.
Would I send Jack to Autism Camp again? No. I think it's counterproductive in a sense. If I want him to mimic the kind of behaviours that help him "fit in" better, I'm sorry to say it, but I don't know if they're found at Autism Camp. Would he really be able to learn any good social skills there? It didn't seem like it. I would rather he go to a camp with--for lack of a better word--"normal" kids, so he could learn by example, and not learn in theory.
Does this mean I would exclude Jack from all Autism-related activities and workshops? No. I still intend to find some social skills groups that (by some miracle) won't have waiting lists, and I still daydream about that magical RESPITE WORKER who might one day come into our lives.
In the meantime though, I'll keep him safe at home, where he only has to worry about his little sister punching him.
|2010, but nothing's changed.|