So while I’ve been quiet, we’ve been gearing up for the kids’ summertime activities. Both R and the Monster are going to camp for at least part of the summer (the Monster does have school in July, while R’ll be there the whole time), and last night was the camp orientation.
I’m hardly shy when I talk about how the JCamps are absolutely wonderful, especially when it comes to how they handle children like the Monster. (Those who’ve followed the Facebook page doubtless saw my notice about KLAL, which is their program for teenagers.) The Monster’s been a camper at the JCamps since he was graduated from Noah’s Ark and… well, let’s be honest – they do inclusion in fabulous fashion. Contrasted with the fact that nearly no other camp in our area does inclusion for children with Special Needs… we’d probably still send the children there anyway. Both my wife and I are graduates of JCC day camp programs – she attended the now closed Camp Milldale, and I attended the JCC Day Camp at Flanders (Camp Deeny Riback), in NJ.
For the last three years he’s been at “real” day camp, he’s always been in a regular bunk with a 1:1 aide, and been made to feel part of the bunk. This is massively important to us – as I’ve mentioned before, things were different when I was a camper and a counselor myself. While I think it might eventually get to the point that we take for granted that our preferred camp for the children will take him as an equal, it’s always so nice to see how he’s accepted by the staff.
So… the orientation.
We dropped the kids with their bunks on schedule, R with his fellow rising kindergarteners, and the Monster with his inclusion counselor S. (This year, the Monsters on a 2:1 – there’ll be a second inclusion camper with them every week he’s there. I’m all for it, because that means more children with special needs can attend the camp, and the Monster seems to do well with other children.) We went over the information she’d been given about the Monster and our expectations – that because he’s largely non-verbal, we need copious notes about how he’s doing so we can prompt him for a discussion, that we’ll send his Talker if it’s needed, but if not, we’d prefer to be protective (and abide by the camp’s no-electronics policy). We went over – again – the fact that everyone’s told S about how wonderful our child is. And then we eloped to the parents’ orientation. After about ninety minutes, we came back to get the kids.
And the Monster was nowhere to be found.
“Okay,” we said to the counselors, looking around, “have you seen the Monster?”
One of the staff turned around in place for a moment. “Have you looked for where all the girls are?” she asked. Um, no…?
Sure enough, more than half a dozen of the female staff were over by the gaga enclosure, in front of the speakers, where the Monster was dancing with them. The dancing style clearly comes from me, because the boy couldn’t find a Groove Thang to shake if it would save his life. But seriously, when did my nine year old become a chick magnet? (To be fair… a good share of their staff have worked with him either over past summers or at Sunday Funday/Kids’ Day Out but seriously…)
“I think this is going to all work out fine,” S confided in us. “He’s such a great kid.”
I seriously feel like the Monster’s turning into the mascot for the Inclusion Program… and I’m not sure this is a bad thing…
You will remember that Joel was a camp mascot, leading all the singing, even though no one understood a word he said. On a different note, if E continues to dance with the kids, they should video him. It would make great PR, both for the camp and inclusion
Though, to be fair, R might yet turn into a Joel too… but it’s the Monster that everyone’s wild about seeing.