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Sunday, July 7, 2013

Summer on the Fringe

I have started and not completed several blog entries these last two weeks. These days  I have material for a blog several times a day, such turbulent and challenging times with Finbar these are.   Ahh summer.  Summer, and all its glorious NON-structure and NON-routine.   At once freeing, yet challenging. Challenging for any child/parent combo to weather time-management wise, but especially challenging for a child lacking in self-direction and attention skills, one who can only conceive of filling his endless summer days  conquering multiple galaxies in Super Mario, interrupted only by You Tube searches on how to conquer said galaxies.   Summer is such a dilemma for a fringe mom like me.  What to do with a child who only has attention for video games and who does not automatically fit into to the neat and tidy summer camp descriptions that abound in every local freebie publication and every mom conversation by the dozens?     

Moms: “So, what camps is Finbar thinking of doing this summer?”  

Me: “Uh, do you have 30 minutes for me to go through all the what-ifs and hedging bets scenarios involved in determining the answer to that?”   A simple “Um, we’re focusing on swimming this summer.”  thankfully gets me past these conversations.

When I say that I cross my fingers and say three hail Mary’s and get butterflies in my stomach (or is it ulcer cramps?) when I send in a payment  for a summer camp for Finbar , I am not exaggerating.  Anxiety consumes me when I hit “send” (I register online).   And “send” is only hit after hours and hours spent pouring over options, determining potential challenges, calculating days of the week, hours of the day, cross checked with other potential activities and options.  Not until multiple conversations with Finbar, a consultation with my husband the wallet, a full blown pros and cons, risk assessment, worst case scenario, disaster preparedness plan is executed.  Only then, do I hit “send”.   And still, I get heart palpitations. You see, at school, the parents and kids know Finbar.  In summer camp, it’s a crapshoot. Who knows who will be there and what they might say or think or do when Finbar elbows another kid or tells unfunny fart jokes?    
Summer Activity Guide
Will he fit into one of these??
I am learning by trial and error how to reduce my summer camp anxiety to manageable levels…forget sports altogether (hard to believe I actually considered that an option a year ago – duh!);  go for areas of high interest and engagement such as circuit crafts; go through Parks and Rec  programs, which provide aides for people with disabilities; half-day camps only.  Still, as I fill out the paperwork to get the aide, sit in on a meeting with 5 members from Parks and Rec to discuss MY child and a strategy for ensuring “a successful camp experience”, as I walk Finbar to class on the first day, greet the instructor and Finbar’s aide with a knowing smile that says “good luck and I am trusting you to deal with my unpredictable kid, thank you very much and have a great day.” I find myself ANXIOUS. I watch the hours tick by and wonder what is going on in his class.

I read and learned a long time ago that people prone to anxiety become control freaks (you know who you are).  Control reduces anxiety.  This of course sounds nothing like me; nevertheless,  I decided to TAKE CONTROL of my summer camp anxiety and drum roll please….dah dah dah DAH….CREATE MY OWN CAMPS!

Camps ONLY for kids with high functioning autism, ADD and Aspergers.   In essence, I am going to embrace what is and I’ve never felt more passionate about embracing my child’s autism.  And what is, are a bunch of fringe kids like Finbar whose parents struggle to find summer and enrichment activities that do not require intense social interaction, structure and downright inhibition of what comes natural to them – asking too many questions, needing lots of personal space, invading personal space, making weird noises, bouncing around the room, and generally being and acting weird or inappropriate one minute, normal the next.    I don’t want my son to have an aide anymore to “fit in”.  I just want him to enter a room full of summer campers and be OK the way he is!   

Now THIS looks like a "successful camp experience". Unfortunately it is in N. Carolina :(
When I googled classes and camps for kids with Aspergers in our area, I found that there really aren’t any.  The ones that do exist are therapeutic and expensive and usually mix kids with different disabilities and different levels of disability.  Finbar would wonder why he is in a camp with kids who are in wheelchairs or who have cognitive delays.   I just want my son to be welcome and comfortable and I think other parents of Aspies aspire to the same thing.  I/they don’t want to have to fill out paperwork, sit in on meetings with camp managers, manage the camp instructors' expectations, and pray the other kids don’t eat my/their child alive (or vice versa).   My idea is to offer after school classes and school break camps that cater to the intellect and interests of these kids like Finbar – technology, gaming, web design, math, science, robotics….  And if they get some social skills out of it, GREAT.  
So I put an ad on craigslist for potential  instructors and was astounded by the number of freelance techies that VOLUNTEERED to help provide classes.  Who knew? It would seem that these tech folks feel very strongly about helping this particular set of kids and bringing technology to young kids.  Gotta love the geeks.  Bill Gates is an aspie, yes?  When I asked Finbar if he would like to do a class learning how to design his own video games he replied, and I quote,  “Huh? Yes!  Please mom! Please! Please! Please! sign me up for a game design class. Please! Please! Can I? Sign me up!”  On top of all this, his Space Adventures Class, complete with aide, was cancelled this week due to low enrollment.  I am finally starting to relax…