For many families living with autism, summer can be a challenging time. I wrote about our struggles in a previous post and how I must plan ahead for Emilio’s summer schedule because without the proper structure, he could easily spend the day indoors on his computer or television.
As his summer camp is coming to an end, I can see a shift in Emilio’s attitude about it. What was once the most dreadful thing I could have done to him, he’s now sad he won’t be coming back next week.
This has been the case almost every year. A huge struggle to get him to go to camp, and by struggle I mean weeks of preparing him ahead of time by continuously talking to him about it and answering all of his questions.
And let me tell you, he had a thousand questions every time the subject came up.
As many times as he asked the same questions, it was imperative that I answered each one as though he was asking it for the very first time. Patience made the difference in keeping him calm and less anxious about it. Eventually, he resigns himself to the fact he must go and as soon as he sets foot at camp, he’s happy.
But I must say, in the past, he was also equally happy to have camp come to an end. He was happy to spend the rest of his time at home with me doing different things on our own time.
Except this year. This year is different.
This year he feels a little nostalgic about it and I welcome this wonderful change. It shows a level of maturity about him that I haven’t seen before. It’s like he found himself a group of friends that he was able to hang out with every week for the past few weeks. I don’t think he was expecting this and I believe this is what he’s going to miss.
His attitude about it changed because he’s matured in many different ways, more significantly, he’s matured emotionally. He has a much deeper connection and reaction to situations than he did in the past. He often tries to find the meaning behind something by asking questions.
How I longed for these questions when he was a child. How I longed to hear him speak like other kids his age. How I longed for him to be curious and ask me so many questions until I would want to pull my hair out.
As with everything he does, my teacher, my son, has taught me that his time will come when he is ready. Looks like he’s ready now and I’ll take it all in.
Every single curious question, I will take it all in with open arms.
I think his attitude about camp surprised him just as much as it surprised me.
What made it even sweeter was him thanking me for taking him to camp.
So to the parents who struggle every year, I hear you and I get you, trust me, I really do. But don’t give up. Keep giving your child that gentle push to get out of their comfort zone. Know their limits but push them a little further each time.
There will be mornings when you’ll hate yourself for putting your child through this because he’s begging you not to send him.
There will be days when you will hate everything about autism because you just can’t understand why things have to be such a constant struggle for your child.
There will be days when you will question everything and wonder why things can come so easily for one child and not for your child.
But even through all this, keep moving forward. Believe me when I tell you that your gentle push and constant support will pay off in the long run.
You are doing an awesome job, don’t ever forget that.
You are working miracles with the resources you have, don’t ever forget that.
You are a wonderful caregiver who often runs on empty, give yourself some slack.
You are your child’s best advocate, and what you do for your child today is always for their well-being tomorrow.
How has your child handled the summer schedule? How has summer camp been for them? We’d love to hear your story.
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