Today was S's last day of summer camp. It is somewhat of an accomplishment for both her and us to get through all six weeks successfully. She went to day camp six weeks out of the summer, for four days a week, 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. This being the last day for this summer camp, I now have the few weeks up until school starts to keep her entertained. (Yes, that makes me nervous.)
The staff of this camp are just phenomenal. This is more than your average summer day camp. This particular camp is a program run through our county's Board of Developmental Delay. There are just over 100 spots in this camp, and the application process is on a first-application-received, first-applicant-guaranteed-a-spot basis. I have heard that some parents fill out the application the day they receive it in January, and overnight it to the intake person that day, just to make sure their child gets a spot. The staff members of this camp are special people, because they do what so many people refuse to do - they work one-on-one with children with disabilities, and treat them with respect, kindness, and love. Today being the last day of camp, the campers and counsellors put together a talent show, with each group doing a routine to a M.ichael Jackson song. It was sooooo cute, the kids did so well and had fun. The people working with the kids in this camp didn't look at them and say, 'oh, they can't do that'. They picked a song, practiced with the kids, and put on a well-done show for all the parents. It was truly wonderful to see.
This camp is another reason why we are so, so blessed to live where we live. S does well at this camp, thank God. She does not enjoy the drive there/back home as it highway driving, but she enjoys herself while she is there, and I doubt I could keep her nearly as well entertained and appropriately busy here at home. So this camp ensures her sanity during the summer - and mine.
As I said, the staff of the camp is phenomenal. The lead teachers are all either special-ed teachers or intervention specialists, so they know their way around an IEP/504 plan, and the goals/parameters of those documents are followed and worked on as much as possible over the summer. The counsellors are all college students who are focusing their studies on areas matching the needs of this camp - nursing, special ed, occupational/speech/physical therapy and the like. And yet, this is still very much a summer camp, with all the accompanying craft projects and silly songs and swimming! The kids have a fantastic time in a safe environment where the staff is aware of their challenges yet helps the kids work through those challenges so they can still enjoy themselves. So my daughter, who could not possibly go to a regular summer camp, day-based or otherwise, can still say she is "going to camp" like any other kid.
So days like today are bittersweet. Like other special-needs parents, as my daughter gets older I find myself repeatedly going through the scenario of saying goodbye to people who I have trusted to take care of my daughter, keep her safe, help her learn and develop, and help her have a good time. That is HUGE for any special-needs parent. I hope we will see many of the same counsellors and staff back next summer...but I don't know, maybe we won't. Anyone who sees my daughter for the great person she is, is someone who comes to mean a lot to me - and it is hard to keep saying goodbye to these people. I wonder if they know how meaningful their presence in my daughter's life is? I know they get a paycheck...but believe me, they don't do this job just for that. They do this job because they see in these kids what is so often overlooked by the general public - they see a person.
Thanks for reading.