Summer Day Camp

If you follow this page on FaceBook, you probably saw on Monday that we got the notification that The Boy was accepted and placed in the Autism Society’s new Summer Day Camp in our area. I was on pins and needles all day waiting for the notification because there were only 30 spots, and I just knew they would be overwhelmed with applicants. They didn’t seem overly worried, but I was up at midnight when registration went live, just in case. Good thing too, as they ended up taking kids that qualified in order of the date and time of registration!

In any case, it is completely grant funded (in other words FREE), and runs for six weeks, every damn weekday, from 9am to 5pm. Down here in the land of “ESY?? We don’t got no stinkin’ ESY!” this is a golden opportunity. Trained staff, fun activities, 1:1 and 2:1 ratios…

And vans. Six of ’em. To take the kids places.

You see, even though I have the perspective to be able to see how awesome this will be, The Boy still sees it as a change from summers past. Camp Smile, while it was the best we could hope for for the past three summers, wasn’t all that. And he hated it at first because it was so different from the awesome ESY program he had up north. But he grew to love it. And now, another change. So I had to sell it a bit when I told him yesterday. And I opened with the vans.

“What kind of vans are they?” he asked. He was hooked.

Do I know my kid, or what? 😉

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Summer Camp?

Our state and local chapters of the Autism Society held a meeting last night regarding all of the new and wonderful programming they are bringing to our area, focusing primarily on their summer day camp at a new-to-us facility that has been remodeled and improved. I was excited to get the information, find out about registration and see how much it would cost. While The Boy has enjoyed the summer program he has attended the past few years, it wasn’t quite what he needed, although something was better than nothing. And if the school district claims he doesn’t qualify for ESY, it was our only alternative.

This new program will be for six weeks (six weeks!), Monday through Friday (all week!), from 9am to 5pm (amazing!). And it will be free… Wait, what?

And there are only 30 slots.

Wait, what?

They went on to explain that first priority would be given to kids who do not receive any state services (pretty much everyone I know because you have to sacrifice your first born to get any kind of services around here), and to those who can attend the whole 6 weeks. OK, and do you not realize you are going to have hundreds of kids who fit that description? How will you decide among them?

Then they said it was open to kids with all diagnoses, and even siblings if there was room. And then they said it would be open to anyone in the area, not just people in our county…

A little bit of market research would have been appropriate here. I can’t believe they think that so few would be interested in this. I guess I’ll be up at Midnight on May 1, hoping the site doesn’t crash and trying to get registered before everyone else in the tri-county area…

hanging out

 

Summer Plans Now That There May Be No Camp

The Boy’s summer camp that he has attended for the past couple of summers has lost its home, and I am fairly certain he won’t qualify for ESY this year, magically, even though he has qualified since the age of 5.  This leaves us with a bit of a problem.  An unstructured summer for a kiddo on the spectrum spells disaster.  I would consider enrolling him in a program primarily for neurotypical kids, if I thought for one hot minute that anyone on their staff would have a clue about autism.  But since the paid professionals in the area still seem to be clueless, that is a lot to expect, and a lot of money to spend on an experience which could quite likely do more harm than good.

Time OutGrammy and Poppy have already spoken up, suggesting a beach day with The Boy each week, to get him out of the house.  Excellent.  The Boy takes to water like there’s no tomorrow, and thankfully doesn’t try to swim to Africa like he did when he was younger.  He can stay absorbed for hours just wading in up to his chest and jumping around, and I think that would provide a lot of sensory input and exercise in his routine.

Ever the planner, I am already thinking of post-high school experiences and what those may be like, so why not use this huge chunk of time in the year, which already has built in traditions and transitions, toward a better purpose.  The Boy has an undying love for PowerPoint and it’s Google counterpart, so I’m developing an idea to pay a bit of allowance for “projects” that I plan to give him for those programs.  I’ll give him a set of parameters at the beginning of the week, and allow him to develop something for me over the course of the week, building on the idea that you get paid for doing work, and that the work may include doing what someone else wants you to do.

Another thought I had and just haven’t had time to act upon yet is to reach out to some friends in the veterinary medicine business, and some friends who have multiple household pets and offer The Boy’s services as a walker, or a visitor.  If we can get him to learn some skills in an area in which he has great interest, he may be able to find something meaningful to do with his life and be able to give back to others.

I’d like him to read a novel this summer, even if it means we read every word of it together, but with enough supports and incentives, I think even this is attainable.

And somehow, we have to get him some time to socialize, which is the hardest part in our county, where it seems like it takes two hours to get from one end to the other some days.

Yet again, I find myself doing things that the professionals handled for us up North.  DIY special education programming around here, I reckon…

Our Summer Plan

So, summer break is here.  How did that happen??  One minute it’s May, and the next… Well.  The Boy has two weeks of vacation, just enough time to drive him up a wall.  He is spending leisurely, unstructured days at Grammy’s until ESY starts up.  ESY this year will consist of him meeting up with his teacher at the local library and doing God knows what school-type things for an hour and a half.  And then four weeks out of the summer he will go to a day camp for kids on the spectrum and their siblings, the same one he went to last year, which he grew to love.  And then he’ll have two weeks off again in August before starting up again, one of which will be spent visiting with Fantastic Babysitter and her new baby who are coming to visit (and I CAN’T WAIT TO GET MY BABY FIX!!!).

And me?  I’m not missing the summer break yet.  My job can be stressful, but I do not need the break anywhere as much as I did when I was a teacher.  Plus I live at the beach, so any time I get too stressed…  I don’t want to make you too jealous. 😉

Grammy is being the wonderful grammy that she is, and taking off work a day this week and next to take him somewhere special, maybe the waterpark, maybe a movie to spend some quality Grammy-Boy time with him.  And I get off work fairly early so that we can still go do stuff together.

I’ve seen some other great ideas for adding a little structure to the summer:

  • This one has a theme-a-day which is great to fit into your schedule when you need it or want it
  • These are some great ways to prep your child for the changes in routine, and how to add some structure to the summer
  • And this is a comprehensive list of ideas and resources to ensure brains are still engaged in the summer months

I hope you are ready.  I feel pretty good about it, at least for The Boy.  I hope we still get to spend some family time together, and it doesn’t fly by too fast.  It’s still my favorite season.

Let us know what you’ve got planned in the comments!

ESY Is Different Down Here

ESY, or Extended School Year, has been a mainstay of The Boy’s summer experience since he was six years old.  I have written about some of his experiences in the past, and he always looked forward to it when we lived up north.  Last year, he struggled with adapting to a summer day camp which did not include computers, and was not like school very much at all, although he ended up enjoying the experience and meeting some new (and long-lasting) friends.

Before we moved here, I asked some parents with whom I had connected in advance, through the autism society’s local chapter whether or not they knew anything about the local ESY program.  They had no idea what I was talking about…

“Uh-oh”, I thought.

When we went through the IEP process this year, the assistant director for special education for the school district was involved (because I was trying to get The Boy into his current program, and being the warrior mom that I need to be to get things done from time to time), and she indicated then that ESY for this summer would be a long-shot.  We would have to prove he needed it with data. “I’ve got six years of data backing me up,” I thought.

And this year’s IEP rolled around and his special ed teacher for language arts and math basically explained that even if he did qualify, which she clearly didn’t believe he did, it was very different from what we had experienced up north.  Down here, it was basically one-on-one tutoring with an aide for a few hours a week.

“Oh crap,” I thought.

I immediately began to devise activities with which I could supplement his summer camp – was there a computer camp or cartooning lessons I could find somewhere (and could I even afford it)?

The Boy’s program teacher called about two weeks later to let me know that they had determined that The Boy would qualify for ESY this year, because he had had it for so many years, and that they would continue to collect data next school year to determine whether or not he would qualify for the following year.

“Yay… kind of,” I thought.

Now we need to determine where this “ESY” experience will occur, and how often and for how long.  Luckily he will have his program teacher, which helps with the continuity.  But it remains to be seen how effective this brand of summer enrichment will be toward maintaining the structure and routine that most kids on the spectrum need through the summer months.

sandy boy

Got Your Summer Booked Yet?

One of the biggest anxieties The Boy has about moving is that he will miss his ESY program (that’s Extended School Year, if you weren’t aware).  ESY is a service that public schools provide to children who would otherwise take a drastic step backward in their academic and behavioral progress if they did not continue a type of school structure through the summer months.  Many districts keep this service on the down-low because if parents don’t know about it, and don’t ask about it, and they don’t happen to mention it at the IEP, they don’t have to have a program and pay for it.  I know districts that do this on purpose, intimately. Some districts even go so far as to tell parents that their children don’t need it, just so that they don’t have to have a program…

But The Boy’s district has a fabulous program, although it has scaled back even in the five years The Boy has attended, I’m assuming due to funding cuts.  In any case, he digs it.  Looks forward to it, and collects the T-shirts (even from years before he attended, thanks to an awesome gift from his amazing ASD teacher).  It’s like really, really laid back school.  But it’s structure, and school-like, so The Boy can’t get enough.

The Pink Shirt

Now, when we move, from what I can tell, there is nothing like that where we will be.  Plan B is a summer program offered either by the Boys and Girls Club or the City Parks and Rec department.  If it isn’t Boy-friendly (i.e. they’re not used to having special needs kids participate…), it soon will be. I can guarantee that.

I just hope we can get him in a daily program with enough structure that he will enjoy it, and maybe meet some new friends.  It breaks my heart that he won’t be able to attend ESY, but I hope with a little planning and forethought, we can find him the next best thing.

Wish us luck!