Tate started day camp last week. By “day camp”, I mean M-W-F from 9-11:30. His first day went fairly well–for Tate. The second day he went to camp went better. By the third day, his therapist told me that she thought he could handle it on his own. He was maneuvering transitions fairly well, and kept up with the rest of his peers. The only real areas where prompting was needed by the therapist were in social interactions and in appropriate play with toys that he uses as stimmies. (Helicopters, sand table, and drum sticks.)
This week, camp has continued to go well. On Monday, his therapist reported that scripts were significantly decreased, pragmatic language was better, and he was following the routines. He talked about day camp yesterday when we were alone in the afternoon. (That therapist called in sick.) He told me about his “friends”. He said he colors, then he plays outside, then he gets water, then they read. He likes singing, too, but when I started to sing, I was promptly cut off, “No, no singing, Mommy.” To make his point abundantly clear, he wagged his finger at me and rested his hand on my arm.
Today went quite well. Tate’s therapist said that despite complaining that his tummy hurt, he played WITH his peers on the play equipment on the playground! He took turns on the climbing wall. He chased kids and they chased him. He. fit. in. Tate didn’t want his snack today, which is unlike him, but his therapist said that he was first to the song circle. They were supposed to hold hands, and when the boy next to him wouldn’t hold his hand, Tate tried again. The teacher apparently told Tate that it was ok, and had the reluctant boy come stand next to her. The next child Tate stood next to took his hand. Tate hugged the girl, and the girl reciprocated. (Please catch me as I’m about to faint…)
In the meantime, I got a message from the therapist who is supposed to be working with Tate on Wednesday afternoons and Friday mornings. Even though she just started with him last week, she’s going on vacation this week. She isn’t here today. She won’t be here on Friday. She won’t be here for the next 5 Fridays. I started to panic. Who’s going to help Tate at camp?! Can he do it by himself?! I began to feel light-headed.
I brought up my concerns with Tate’s M-Th morning therapist, and I started to feel a little better. She reminded me of the strict routine at camp. Tate is managing the routine and transitions very well. She said that as long as the teacher (who is well aware of Tate’s autism) is ok with redirecting him when he gets sidetracked by his perseverations, she felt he’d be fine. I spoke with the teacher at the end of camp today. She said that he’s doing quite well, and is even interacting, minimally, with his peers. She said she’d be comfortable with him in the group without his therapist–as long as I’m reachable and able to come get him just in case. Being the parent of a child with special needs, I think I’m always planning for “just in case” and told her I’d definitely be reachable. She said she doubted she’d need to contact me. I let out a sigh of relief.
As we left, Tate proudly handed me his artwork from the day–a pig paper ring around a picture of a pig–that he drew. The pig paper ring is distinguishable. Anyone could tell immediately that it’s supposed to be a pig. The pink dot on his drawing doesn’t exactly suggest “pig”, but he followed directions. My kid…the one who barely was able to function in a classroom without one-to-one help last year in ESY, HE is following directions and participating in a neurotypical group class setting. Go, Tater Tot!!!
In that moment I felt hope…hope that Friday will go well. Hope that maybe….just maybe our kiddo is making bigger strides than we’ve given him credit for making. This all makes us very happy campers.