For the past two summers Emma has gone to camp for a couple of weeks. She attends the same camp her older brother Nic goes to. It’s about an hour outside of the city with two lakes where the children can go fishing, boating and kayaking, a climbing wall, swimming pool and log cabins. Last year when we signed Nic up we drove up to see the camp and meet the owner. Emma was ecstatic when she saw the lakes and the owner said, “Do you think she’d like to come too?”
We discussed her autism and agreed Joe would need to shadow her and facilitate interactions with the other children if it was going to work. The owner was amenable to everything and willing to take a chance. The camp also had a strong anti-bullying policy, which appealed to us and so after further discussion we signed her up, agreeing that she should take the bus with the other neuro-typical children.
Last summer turned out to be a huge success. The other girls in Emma’s unit were kind and inclusive. Two little girls even took a special interest in helping Emma out with things she didn’t seem to understand and held her hand as they went from one activity to another. Joe reported to us each afternoon as did the camp manager. I am, to this day, incredibly grateful to those two little girls in particular who took it upon themselves to help Emma and include her in the group. Children can so often be cruel to one another particularly if one child is “different” so it was particularly heart-warming to hear of children being so generous and kind. As a result we signed both Nic and Emma up again for this summer. Emma began asking about camp in April.
By May, unable to contain her excitement she said to me one morning, “Sleep, wake up, sleep, wake up, go to camp by the lake!”
“No, Em. Not yet. The water in the lake is too cold.”
“It’s too cold,” Emma said.
In June Emma said, “No not going to go on the school bus. Sleep wake up go to camp!”
“Not yet, Em. In another month and a half,” I said.
“It’s too cold,” she said.
“Well, probably not, but it’s not open yet.”
“It’s closed. Daddy has to fix it,” Emma said.
“No. You have to wait. After we get back from Colorado,” I said.
“You have to wait,” Emma repeated.
When we returned from Colorado each morning she woke up and said, “Sleep wake up sleep wake up, sleep wake up, go to camp!”
“Not for another two weeks Em,” I said.
To which she revised her script, “Sleep wake up sleep wake up sleep wake up sleep wake up sleep wake up sleep wakeup sleep wake up sleep wake up sleep wake up,” she said as she counted out on her fingers how many sleep wake ups there were before the blessed day. When there were too many or if she forgot where she was in her counting she began to laugh and said very quickly, “Sleepwakeupsleepwakeupsleepwakeupsleepwakeupsleepwakeupsleepwakeup…” until I would stop her.
“Em I can’t keep up!” I said.
She laughed, “Whoa! Whoa! You’re gong too fast!”
“That’s right, Em. You’re saying it so quickly I don’t know how many you’ve said.”
“Pancakes?” Emma said with a sly grin. As if by squeezing in “pancakes” among all the “sleepwakeupsleepwakeups” she thought I might not notice and actually make them with her. “Noooooooo! We cannot make pancakes! We don’t have time,” She answered herself before I was able to say anything.
Pancakes and camp became a running theme. Entangled in her mind – they are her two most anticipated activities other than going to see her Granma in Colorado.
“Camp?” Emma said as she opened her eyes Monday morning.
“Yes!” I said. “You’re going to camp with Nickey and Joe!” I said.
“No not going to go on the school bus,” Emma said just to be sure she had the correct information.
“No you’re not going to go on the school bus. What bus will you take?”
“Going on the bus with Joe and Nickey!” Emma shouted.
“Yes! And where are you going?”
“You’re going to camp, go swimming in the lake!” Emma said jumping up and down on the bed.
“That’s right!” I agreed.
When Emma returned home from camp the first day I asked her, “So Em. How was camp?”
Emma didn’t answer.
“Hey Em, did you have fun at camp today?”
“YES!” Emma said bouncing up and down.
“What did you do?” I asked.
“Swam in the lake! Emma had so much fun!” Emma said.
“I’m so glad, Em. Do you want to go back tomorrow?”
“YES!” Emma shouted. “Sleep wake up get on the bus with Nickey and Joe go swimming in the lake!” She said very quickly.
“Sounds like an excellent plan,” I said.
And that’s exactly what she did.