After the success of Max's week at sleepaway camp, I've been looking into options for next summer. He might return there but I also want to find out about day programs that mix kids with special needs and kids without. An inclusionary program. A couple of comments on my "Should he stay or should he go?" post had gotten me thinking (a rare occurrence): Why should Max always do special needs programs? It would be good for him to be around so-called typical kids. (I always say "so-called" because, really, what's typical?)
It's been a sobering search. First I asked on my mom e-loop to find out which camps in our area host kids with special needs. The first one I called said that I would have to hire a person to "shadow" Max. A possibility, but I wasn't that gung-ho about finding someone given that I like to lie around all day doing nothing except asking the kids to feed grapes to me. The next camp I called wouldn't let Max come for less than three weeks, even though I explained that Max is in a year-round school program and only has off for two weeks at a time. Another camp was more geared toward children with cognitive disabilities. Another said that they do hire shadows for kids, but the fact that Max wasn't potty trained was a deal breaker. I told them how disappointed I was.
I am honestly not sure whether Max's resistance to potty training is because of his disability or because he is mentally unwilling. Probably both. Kids with cerebral palsy, who have issues with muscle control, may not always feel that gotta-go urge. We think Max does, although the other night, he was wandering around in his birthday suit before bathtime and he let out some poop on the floor.
I sighed loudly, and Max said something to me. I thought it was "I'm sorry" and perked up. Good! He realized it was gross.
"Nooooo," he said, shaking his head. Then he said it again. That's when I realized he was saying, "It's funny!"
"No, Max, it's not funny!" I said.
He laughed and again told me it was funny. Boys and poop, what can I say.
Today I printed out a bunch of color photos of an electric Lightning McQueen car and I am posting those suckers all over the house. If he potty trains, he gets the car.
Anyway, back to camp. Last Friday, I visited the a camp that has a dedicated program to including kids with special needs. Why it's the only one in our state, I don't know. They find the shadow, although he or she is officially considered a "counselor" and the other kids don't know that he or she is there to specifically watch your child.
I am telling you, I almost had tears in my eyes as I did the tour. The program director pointed out the shadows as we walked around, who blended right in with the rest of the counselors. No kids seemed to be outsiders or "special." There were just hordes of kids mingling and having a great time. I think we're going to try Max there next summer for a couple of weeks, and I am psyched.
Meanwhile, today a reader (thanks, Sara!) emailed me about Camp Bennett, a camp in California for childhood stroke survivors. It's a three-week intensive therapy program for kids with intensive brain damage. Bennett is the son of the camp's founder, Audrey Vernick; when he started having seizures at five months old, doctors discovered he'd had a stroke in utero.
Camp Bennett sounds incredible, even though it might not be Max's idea of a good time. There's a big focus on constraint-induced movement therapy, in which a child's stronger arm is restrained in a cast, forcing the brain to recognize the weaker arm and get it moving. Max's challenges lie more in his hands than his arms. Even though his left hand is the better-working one, nobody would consider it "good." There's also a similar program in our neck of the woods, Helping Hands. I'm not ruling it out.
Maybe Max will just spend next summer camp hopping. Maybe I will open Camp Spaghetti With Sauce. We shall see.
Have your kids been doing camp this summer? Found any good inclusionary activities in your area lately?