When I was young, I did not like camps. It was a combination of me not liking them and my mom not having enough money to send me to one. Me not liking them came first. The cliques, the boy vs. girl, the bullying and not to mention, the annoying counselors. I spent my summers hanging with my mom and brother, playing with a few friends, going to concerts and sometimes playing video games till my fingers were sore.
Now that I’m an adult, I spend my summers at camps, ha. Sallyanne, my right hand woman, and I take three young ladies to a camp that is for children and young adults who have physical disabilities, although they accept people whom have developmental disabilities too. It is beautiful and ruins other camps that you’ve been to. It is right on Rideau Lake, has every activity any other camp would and, is completely accessible. The staff are wonderful! They hire a lot of international staff, which is so nice to have people from different parts of the world.
What I do is assist my client in personal care, but more than that, during programming, to be social, and with all the secret things that parents do to take care of their kids that no one else can do. Mostly, I provide the extra support that camp staff can’t because of intervention and the ratio of campers. That’s right, fourteen hour days, with breaks in between. I am so over joyed and fulfilled at the end of the day, that I’m always ready to do it over again.
This year, I did two ten day sessions, with a four day break, a cottage, a dirt road and lots of car travel in between. I had the best time and watched my young adults, transform, make friends, let others help them, laugh, miss their families and truly enjoy being a kid!
This year I took one young man on my own. This was just the first of two sessions I would be at camp. It was my first time on the boys side, I usually take girls. The young man I took has a physicality says nothing about his personality. He can’t do anything without help, but has a sharp mind and a mouth that he uses to tell you all that’s on his mind from politics to history to inappropriate jokes. His body (as he refers to it separately from himself, dualism) is affected by Dystonia; random un-choreographed movements due to neurological control inhibitors sparking off, leaving him with little to no control over his body. This can affect any muscle in his body, including, Trachea, legs, arms, vocal chords, sometimes leaving him straining to talk, swallow food or completely twisted into a pretzel. He tends to think about danger a lot, because he can get hurt so easily. For example, if I am sitting with him in my lap and there’s a wall near by; His eyes see it and no sooner does he see it, he starts thinking “oh no, I’m going to hit that wall” his brain takes charge of his thought and throws his body into extension, trying to hit the wall. Its a battle, because he doesn’t want to hit the wall, is trying to tell his brain not to hit the wall and the more he says no, the more his body arches towards the wall. This means quick reflexes, being super observant and thinking the way he does. Any hard or plastic chairs or tables, we keep him away from, as his body reacts to it.
So you can imagine when I said I wanted to take him sailing in a small plastic boat with little room for legs, no straps and a bucket seat made out of tight mesh, his parents said “no.” He was indifferent though. I have done some pretty amazing things with his body and connected mind power. A boat meant we were stuck and the only thing around us to make it better was water. Him and I talked and talked and talked about it. I convinced his parents, who have the utmost trust in me. His big worry was that, if we his body was completely unresponsive to my hands and intervention and he was in full extension, he would hurt himself or pretzel under something and get stuck. We finally decided, that if all went completely ary, we’d bail out of the boat and just float until a nearby motor boat came to get us. There are staff in a motor boat that watch us, help if we need, bring us juice and water or bail boats if they have filled up with water.
When we first got in, I explained to him where everything was in context to his body, had my arm tight behind him and padded the boat with towels from his sight lines (sometimes, outta sight, he doesn’t react the same way). Big surprise and not so big surprise, he kept his body calm and was able to stay still. I was able to intervene when he needed me to fix a leg or head and we talked for two hours about life!!!
That is just one of my favourite parts of camp, giving someone the chance to do something, they never thought they could.