For the last three summers we have enrolled Emma in summer camp with her therapist, Joe shadowing her. The director of the camp has been incredibly accommodating, allowing Joe to shadow Emma and doing all he can to provide Emma with a “typical” camp experience among her neuro-typical peers. Each year the other children, while often not exactly clear on why Emma behaves as she does, have been incredibly patient and eager to help when Joe told them she was just learning to speak and sometimes didn’t understand all that was going on. Each summer one or two little girls have taken it upon themselves to help Emma, self assigning themselves to her, urging her to join in and making sure she stayed with the group. The first two summers we signed her up for two weeks and since it went so well, we went ahead and signed her up for a full month, just like her brother, Nic this year. Yesterday was her first day.
Summer Camp last year
“No not going to go to Becky’s class. Going to go on the bus to summer camp!” Emma said yesterday morning as I fixed her breakfast.
“Are you excited, Em?” I asked.
“Yes!” she shouted. Then, “Going to go to summer camp with Nicky and Joe. Going to go swimming in the lake! Not going to take the school bus, no! Going on different bus.”
“Yeah, Em. That’s right. It’s a different bus. Which one do you want to wear?” I asked, holding up three different skorts.
“This one!” she grabbed hold of a pink skirt with shorts attached. “And this one!” she said taking a white t-shirt from me. “And this one,” she added, pulling a white and blue striped two piece bathing suit from the drawer.
“Okay, and how about we take this one for back up?” I held up a colorful one-piece suit in front of her.
“No, no, no! This one.”
“Yes, I know you want that one, but we’ll just bring another one in case you need it too.”
“No mommy. Just this one,” she insisted, jabbing her finger at the two piece.
Emma often reminds me of the children’s book character, Olivia. Olivia is a pig who loves clothes, particularly accessories with stripes and shoots around on her scooter. Which is where the similarities end – not the pig part, just the scooter and love of clothing and striped accessories.
When the bus arrived, Emma, Nic and Joe climbed the stairs amid shrieks of excitement and greetings. Several children from last summer were riding the bus again and as the bus moved away from the curb, I could still hear the excited voices of the children.
When everyone arrived home yesterday afternoon, I asked Emma if she had fun.
She literally jumped up and down she was so happy. But even during the summer, we must continue to work with Emma on her reading, writing and now, math. Joe and I worked out that if he came early each morning, he could work one session of math in before they left for camp, while every afternoon I will do a session of her reading and writing. Yesterday we worked on the word cat/cats. Emma is coming along beautifully with increasingly difficult sentences which she now types out on the computer using her two index fingers or writes by hand – something that is by far the most challenging for her. Pointing to an illustration of a man, I said, “This is not a kid. This is a man.” Then she was to write these two sentences from memory. It was the only one which tripped her up, all the other exercises she did, often without hesitation, beautifully. Such as when I pointed to a group of frogs jumping and asked, “Are these frogs jumping?”
Emma then typed – Yes, these frogs are jumping.
Progress, lots of wonderful progress!
For more on Emma’s journey through a childhood of autism, go to: www.EmmasHopeBook.com