Thursday, August 15, 2013

Summer Camp

My son has been going to day camp this week.

Earlier in the summer, Kai had been in summer school. But the school program lasts for only five weeks, and then we went on vacation. Rather than have Kai be home this week, my wife found a one-week park district camp program.

Years ago, before his kindergarten year, I believe, we had enrolled Kai in a summer day camp. It wasn’t the most horrible experience, but from what we could tell, he struggled at times and did not seem to fit in particularly well with the typical kids. But his communication skills were far less developed then, so we didn’t hear too much about it from him firsthand.

Since then, he started attending a public therapeutic school, and they offer a summer program that is a mix of academics and camp-like recreational activities. And since it is all supervised by the school staff that is familiar with the kids, it has been really wonderful.

But with this one full week free before school starts up again, we thought it would be a good opportunity to see how Kai would do in a regular camp now. Besides, Mom is really busy this week with many dogs staying with us right now, so Kai would have to fight them for attention if he were home all day, and probably would be complaining about being bored.

It was a relief when I came home from work on Monday and Kai told me that he had fun at camp that day. I don’t think he really played with any of the other kids – he didn’t know any of the kids before camp – but all of the special needs kids are assigned companions and his kept him company all day.

The camp has a lot of activities every day with trips to places like water parks, an inflatable jump-and-slide place, and the beach. So Kai has been happy.

Though yesterday he hit his first bump. Or, perhaps I should say it hit him.

He came home without his own shirt, having chewed it up at camp. Of course, chewing up shirts is something we are very familiar with, as he did it almost daily at school for a long time before recent months when things have gone much better.

I asked Kai about his day at camp yesterday. He said he had fun in the morning. But what happened in the afternoon, I asked.

He said it was campers’ choice and everyone picked “stupid stuff.” Apparently the girls chose art and the boys chose dodge ball. It is hard to tell from Kai whether he liked the choice or had to go along because the majority of boys did.

What was clear was that he was struck by a ball – it is the whole point of the game, after all – and that angered him. And without his trained school staff there to help calm him, his anger escalated and there went the shirt.

And so we see where he stands now. He has made progress; he can enjoy himself at an unfamiliar camp intended for typical kids. But he still cannot manage to go a whole week without an incident.

He has two more days of camp. Hopefully he will have more fun, and no more anger.


  1. I don't mean to sound flippant when I say this...Kai has energy and passion. He feels things in a deep and meaningful way to him...and so it must come out somewhere. I think this passion, when he matures and he finds his direction in life, will serve him well. He will be able to outwork others. I know I have said this before...but he is so blessed to have the amount of energy he has. You will see later on when he is able to concentrate this energy...he will excel in his passions.

    1. Kai does have passion, no doubt about it. His enthusiasm is infectious and is one of his most charming qualities. But passion shouldn't lead to these types of explosions. We've got to find ways for him to keep his anger under control. He has improved a lot, but we still have a ways to go.

  2. It's trial and error isn't it. He must be getting to the age/stage where he realises that his reactions are not the same as the others, and probably he holds his feelings in a lot more of the time. But I know I'd feel wary of letting my girl join the masses for this very reason - the unpredictability of how they will react. We do have to prepare them for the big wide world though, so you're doing your best x

    1. Steph, you raise an interesting point. He seems so much more aware of the world around him than he used to be, so I wonder if he is realizing how different he is from other kids. He hasn't said anything about that yet.

      If our only interest was for him to be happy right now, we probably would do things differently. But you are right that we are trying to prepare him for the world, and that means exposing him more and more to different experiences, often those outside his (and our) comfort zones.

      Thanks, Steph.

  3. It's been a while since he chewed up a shirt! And you're right...his 'regular' staff would have caught the anger early and helped him turn his attention elsewhere and defuse it. And I guess you found out he doesn't like dodge ball. :) Hope the rest of the week went well...

    1. Hi Betsy, Kai finished off the week with two good days. He said he had fun. I think he likes dodge ball when others get hit, but he's not really keen on getting struck himself. :)


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