Camp Breakdown

The second session of camp is not going well.  G is having the types of behavior problems we haven’t seen since last September, where for what seems to be no reason at all, he will hit/punch/push another child.   Unfortunately, the child he’s been hitting is the other camper with special needs.  (specifically, SPD but not autism)  I feel just terrible about this situation. It is never good that he hits anyone, but to hit another child with a disability is mortifying.  We’ve heard via the counselor that the other boy’s parents are upset that G is picking on their child. 

What I want to explain, but have not yet had the opportunity, is that part of  G’s autism means he does not have the ability to select a child and pick on them.  What is the more likely scenario is that their boy’s manifestation of his disability is triggering a sensitivity that is a part of G’s disability and G is lashing out in frustration.  This is an explanation, not an excuse. 

What we need to know is what is happening between the boys before G hits.  If we can determine the trigger, than we can work with G to either avoid the trigger or to handle it in a constructive way.   But this information is not easy to come by.  G knows he is not supposed to hit so when we try to talk with him about what caused him to hit, he goes straight into emotional meltdown.  What I learned from listening to Tony Attwood speak this past weekend (a conference post is pending) is that kids with Asperger’s don’t always have the ability to look at a past event in perspective.  Instead they relive the event as if it were happening again at that moment and feel the associated emotions as acutely as they did during the actual event.  I find this to be true with G, talking about why he hit this other boy seems to trigger shame, frustration and anger. 

We’re not getting answers from G, and the counselor is overwhelmed.  She doesn’t have another fully trained counselor working with her, instead she only has a junior counselor so she only sees the event after the boy has been hit.  There were two junior counselors last week so she had a better handle on the group, but one has been reassigned and now chaos reigns.  I’m extremely irritated with the camp program for their staff scheduling because we worked really hard to get them to realize that we were sending a child who needed more support than average. 

 I’m especially irritated because my first warning that camp wasn’t working out was a phone call yesterday afternoon where the camp administration asked if we could provide an aide for G because they weren’t able to provide the level of support he needed. The point of all the advance training with the BOCES was for them to understand and provide this extra support, as we were assured they were a fully inclusive organization and were familiar with handling campers with disabilities.  ( Ok – I can feel my blood pressure rising so I’m going to take some deep breaths and try to finish this post without ranting.)  What ended up happening after 10-20 phone calls to various resources is that the adaptive sports program was able to get volunteers trained in cognitive disabilities to act as G’s aide.  They’ll not only be able to help him take breaks as needed, they’ll be able to see what is going on between G and this other boy to help us figure out the trigger for the hitting.

I fully understand we’re not in a righteous position, as G is the one doing the hitting, but I’m also frustrated with the lack of understanding on the part of this other family.  I’m frustrated that this family just dropped their child into camp with no warning when we’ve busted our butts to make sure everyone was ready for G. Even though they clearly don’t have the aggression issues we have, I would expect them to have a better understanding of the situation.  If a disabled camper were hitting G, I would work to find a solution rather than blame the other parents for not being in control of their child.  

There are two more days of camp with this particular family to get through.  G has one more week of camp scheduled for August and we’re going to work with adaptive sports to have an aide with G.  In addition to providing excellent social opportunities throughout the summer, G really loves camp and really wants to participate.  Which makes me determined that he will participate, no matter the angst and frustration it causes for me or anyone else.

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Published in: on July 21, 2010 at 12:26 pm  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. We have had similar situations…..the stress it causes me can be really overwhelming. I opted not to send my child to a typical camp and he is at a camp intended for special needs kids (we are lucky there is one in our area). We were at this camp a couple of years ago and at the end of camp one of the parents was complaining/ranting about how kids shouldn’t be allowed to come to the camp until they get their aggression issues under control. This was a camp with mostly kids on the spectrum (including hers).

    I would love to hear more about how you got the adaptive sports to find a volunteer to go to camp with your son. Can you email me? I think it is attached to this posting.

    T

  2. I love it when people give you the ‘look’. It reeks of judgment and narrow mindedness. Yet all I have is pity for these people. The public will judge your parenting style, thinking that you do not know how to raise a kid normally. They do not understand that you are not dealing with typical. And this opinion carries over into family courts when dealing with child custody issues. Judges form opinions and stamp it into law! Feeding your child a special diet will very likely get you to lose your child in court!


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