Friday, August 15, 2008

Camp A.B.L.E. Enables Emotion

Today was Casey's last day at his first summer at day camp. Camp A.B.L.E. is a summer day camp for kids 9 to 15 years of age with any kind of disability. We decided this summer he needed more interaction with kids and other adults, and, secondly, we needed daycare since I started full-time with my job.

Things started out good and in June, he seemed to like it. I was a little worried as the majority of the counselors, I discovered at the open house they had prior to the start, were reeeeeally young. They were in their very early twenties at the most. How could self centered twenty somethings ever be responsible enough to take care of such a group? I was a little skeptical. Luckily one of the counselors was a middle aged woman who had been a para in the school system for years. That had made me feel a little better.

But, my worries were for not. Other than the occasional missing towel, nothing seemed amiss and Casey seemed to want to go, and told me a little everyday afterwards about what they did. He always seemed pretty happy to see me when I got there. Probably because a)he never eats in such situations (ie school, camp, field trips) so he knows we'll go get him something, and b) I think sensory wise, the day is a lot for him, but in good way, like excercise is for the body.

They went on a lot of great field trips and on Tuesdays and Thursdays would stay at camp usually doing theme days such as "Birthday Day" and "Halloween Day" for example. And on those days they would travel to a nearby rec center to swim or play at the splash pad.

Needless to say, Casey was always pretty tired when he got home.

Today was the last day of the session, so the celebrated with a family picnic. It was really a treat to finally get to talk to all those young counselors. It was difficult to do so when dropping off and picking up because they were always busy with the kids. I learned that many of them, and not surprisingly so, are going to school for education, usually special ed, one social work, and another marketing (go figure, he gives up his whole summer for this). They all shared little tales about Casey which was cool and asked me why he didn't eat. I gave my usual schpeel and they seemed to understand although they had worried since he never ate what I sent. Casey moved about the crowd, high fiving some kids, actually giving an impromptu hug to another, and just having a good old time eating pizza and having his way with the dessert table.

We finally decided it was time to get going as I had a ton to do before our trip up North tomorrow. We said our goodbyes, gave our thanks and got in the car.

Before we even left the parking lot, Casey asked "Where's my dvd?" alluding to the dvd they made for everyone of photos from all the things they did. I assured I had it, and then he sorta sat and had a strange expression on his face. I asked what was wrong and he said "I'm feeling a little bit sad about leaving Camp A.B.L.E.".

I was floored, literally floored. Not only was he expressing his feelings, but he was doing it so very appropriately! I asked him if he wanted to go back and say goodbye again, and before I knew it, he bolted out his door and ran towards the group.

Everyone looked curiously at us, and I explained what he wanted to do. He ran up and gave four of the counselors hugs on his own. Once again, I was floored. A bit of a tear came to my eye, seeing my boy having such emotion and showing it. Once he was done hugging them, he turned around satisfied and got back in the car.

I followed him and did a last wave to the smiling group, and felt silly that I had ever doubted these great young adults......

Back in the car, Casey announced in his best announcer voice "Goodbye Camp A.B.L.E.! We'll see you next year!". Guess Summer '09 is planned!