Let’s take autism out of the summer camp equation for the moment. Let’s assume that my husband and I want Brooks to enjoy spending summers at camp (we do), and then let’s assume that we have a 4 or 5-figure sum to spare for the months of July and August (we don’t). Hmmm. Trouble already.
I suppose that’s what we get for living in Manhattan, where our family falls well below the average income level (translation: we don’t have a million dollars). The upside of this privileged borough: Brooks has benefited from consistently excellent therapists and autism interventions: after all, New York City has the best of the best. But it also has the worst of the worst, and I guess summer camp tuition falls into this category.
This is a new problem for us. Until starting kindergarten this year, Brooks was in a (free) year-round preschool. Three weeks off in late August meant a visit to his Canadian cousins. Of course, in those toddler days, 2 or 3 months without therapy was risky; major regressions were practically guaranteed. Now that Brooks is older, we’re not as concerned. Yes, he’ll need therapy in some shape or form, but we can afford to be a little more laid back (unless we’re in denial and kidding ourselves, which is always a possibility).
Because he’s in an Intensive K school, Brooks will qualify for the ASD Nest summer program — if it happens, but that won’t be confirmed until May or June. And it won’t be integrated. We’re not sure if that’s a good thing or not. Should Brooks be in an integrated environment? Or even a mainstream one?
Truth is, Brooks isn’t ready yet for a mainstream setting, and neither are we (we’d need more time to process that kind of leap). An integrated setting would probably be best, since we’ve always placed a major emphasis on exposing Brooks to typically-developing kids, and it’s worked pretty well for us so far. So I should be diligently looking for an integrated environment in our folder of special-ed summer camp brochures but I’m not. Finding any appropriate setting for Brooks is hard, and the prospect of putting that kind of time and energy into a 2-month gig is not at all appealing.
So for better or worse, I’m starting to think in a different direction: maybe Brooks and I will do some volunteer work together this summer. We might make a good team helping kids practice their reading skills, or learn how to use computers, or make art—all areas where Brooks excels. Or maybe we could even help prepare food at a soup kitchen, provided Brooks agrees to abandon his recent lemonade recipe.
Am I being a completely crazy, a little crazy, or does this make a modicum of sense?
If anyone has any other good summertime ideas (inside or outside the box), please post them as comments!