Now that we’re settled back home from vacation, we’re starting a number of different camps for our son with special needs. Up first is a multi-activity camp at the new school where he’ll be starting Kindergarten this autumn, mostly to have him get more familiar with the school surroundings and even some of the teachers who pull double-duty during summer as camp counselors. The kids are doing everything from field trips to a cultural center to arts/crafts, gym and outdoor play, and some learning around the weekly camp themes. If you’ve sent your kid to one of these types of camps, you’re pretty familiar.
Of course, as is custom for us, my wife and I had the conversation on the eve of his first day there, to plan out our personal approach to day one drop-off and having our quick conversation with the counselors. This has become a habit; we do it almost through mental muscle memory. Our planning is needed because we’ve observed concerned reactions before in these situations, as they played out when we were less prepared. The usual flow is: we arrive somewhere for registration / drop-off at a new event or activity and the friendly person in charge notices the brace on his leg and their concerned expression begs some explanation. In some cases, arguably, we could say nothing, especially when they don’t bring it up. But I’m always a bit concerned that he’s going to be left out of some activity or subtly tracked away from getting to choose where he wants to participate. Regardless of whether they comment on his brace, when they notice it we get proactive.
Not sure what you would do in these situations, but we just address it head-on with a quick, almost dismissive explanation that downplays any cause for concern. We offer something along these lines: “Oh, he’s cleared for all activities, he just wears that for some additional support because the doctor recommended it. But he should participate in everything, we want that; we want for him to be a part of everything unless he protests and just refuses to do something.” This usually works well, to the best of our knowledge. I think the first few times I did this, I may have come across a tad aggressive – like I was advocating for him – but I think we’ve settled into a fairly matter-of-fact approach that hopefully allays rather than exacerbates concern.
Later in the summer, he’s got a dance camp that will help him explore fun movement. Thankfully, the dance instructor for that week already knows him from other classes and we won’t even have to pull out our rehearsed act. She’ll push him and won’t allow for cop-outs. Then he’s got another more outdoor, adventurous camp that will require the conversation again. But we’re practiced by now and, as with so many other aspects of being his parent, we’re gradually getting a bit more comfortable and perhaps even better as we go along this journey.
~ CP Dad