Tonight, I got unnerved when I saw a new comment on the post about Max and sleepaway camp. The very wise Gina, who blogs at Inky Ed, is all about inclusion; she mentioned sending Max to a camp for all kids, not just "special" ones. Her little boy, Mac, is in a mainstreamed school in Australia.
CLICK. That was the sound of the proverbial lightbulb going on over my head.
THUD. That was the sound of my heart, dispirited that I hadn't thought of it myself.
I sent Gina a few messages on Twitter. "I wouldn't nag if I didn't think you had it in you to challenge your own thinking and be open to a different path for Max," she responded.
I have been thinking about nothing else since.
Every extracurricular activity in Max's life is geared toward kids with special needs: Softball league, Sunday programs, school, probably camp. He has not one so-called typical friend.
Max is all special needs, all the time. And when it comes to bringing him up, so am I, it seems.
Am I doing Max wrong?
I'm thinking the answer is yes.
Trust me, I don't mean I'm a crappy mother for not having done inclusionary activities. Max has benefitted from the adapted ones we've tried. The personal attention and direction he gets from professionals and volunteers has helped him develop, gain confidence in himself and thrive. I am beyond grateful for them. I appreciate how they welcome Max, quirks and all, which I just wrote about. But it could do Max a world of good to be at activities with typical kids.
Last year, I went to check out a day camp for Sabrina. It was THE quintessential camp—on a lake, with little huts for arts and crafts and cooking, canoeing and other water sports, a big outdoor arena where hordes of kids were dancing around and singing for some sort of event. I choked up as I watched it, hiding my face behind some pamphlets they'd given me at the camp office. I desperately wanted Max to experience camp like that, but I didn't notice any kids with physical disabilities.
"Have you ever had a kid with disabilities here?" I asked the camp director.
He thought for a minute. "Yes!" he said, brightly. "We once had a child with autism! He was on the mild side."
"So you haven't had a kid with physical disabilities?" I asked. "I have a child with cerebral palsy who has some challenges."
"No, we haven't," he said, not unkindly, but he didn't seem particularly interested in continuing the conversation and I didn't force it.
I haven't thought about that again till now. Repressed it. Shove, push, right to the back of my brain, along with all the other pain.
Months ago, I got recommendations for special needs camps from moms I know and Max's therapists. We applied to a sleepaway camp and also a day camp, got accepted. Like me, friends and family thought it could be good for Max. They didn't think about the potential for inclusion; why would they? It seems like a no-brainer that he'd benefit from camp for kids with special needs. I drank that camp Kool Aid too.
No doubt, a special needs camp will be great for Max, especially because it's his first year at one. But including him in a typical camp could open up a whole new world for him. Realistically, it won't happen this summer. I'll have do to my research; I know of no camps that have a mix of kids. Calls will be made. Much convincing might have to be done. Much paperwork would definitely ensue. I'd need to find Max a one-on-one aide. But I don't just think I can pull it off—I know I can, because I will basically make anything happen for this child (excluding the other day when he asked to take a spaghetti bath).
Including Max in our local school isn't the right thing for him now; they aren't fully able to accommodate all of his therapies. But camp? That's a real possibility. Who knows, I might even be able to get him into Boy Scouts.
Tonight, I stepped out of Special Needs World and noticed places with other possibilities. I'm a little scared, a little how-are-we-gonna-do-this but mostly, excited.
Do you wonder about including your kid in typical activities? Have you? I sure could use some encouragement here.