A year later……..I know we can’t have it both ways, but….

While driving DC and his friend to their first day of camp this summer; hearing her giggle in the back seat and watching DC “happy stim” in the front seat – both so excited to get to camp to see their “Camp Friends” again, I thought about the post I wrote last summer on their first day.

A year later, I feel exactly the same way. They were so excited to go and I felt sad that they can no longer spend their summer at camp as they used to because they are adults, out of the school system and in a work program. They have to use their vacation time to be able to attend camp for a couple of weeks every summer.

DC has attended this camp since he was 5. At first only a couple of days a week, with support because he was non-verbal at the time, and then when I noticed that he was much more responsive and receptive on the days he attended this camp than the days he attended the “main-stream”  camp, I decided to let him attend 5 days a week. Because DC would rather just sit and read a book than get involved, and this, of course is easier for the main- stream staff,  that was what they let him do. My reason for sending him to camp in the first place was to keep him occupied and involved, so he did not regress during the summer months. The main-stream camps were not providing enough support to keep him from regressing.  They weren’t making an attempt to get him involved with any of the activities, whereas this camp did.

My intention today was to write a new post about the first day of camp, but after re-reading last years post I discovered that there was nothing different about the feelings I had last year and the feelings I have right now. I thought I would be used to  “adulthood” at this point.

It turns out that I am not……

From July 2013 – We can’t have it both ways…. but it’s still a little bit sad.

Today was my son’s first day attending day camp this summer. He has attended this camp since he was 5 – he’s 22 now.

Every summer he was able to attended camp all summer long, even staying after until 8pm for a special after camp program they hold twice a week. He loves it there.

Now that he’s 22 and aged out of the school system, he is in a work program, year round. When I started looking at programs for him I was shocked that they didn’t get the summers off!

Of course they don’t, they are adults and have to do their job every day, just like we do. But it was a rude awakening for me at the time.

Everything changes after “school-age”. He’s aged out of Challengers baseball. Seventeen years of baseball….over. No more February vacations, Spring Vacations or Summer vacations. He’s “working” now, with 3 weeks’ vacation, holidays and some sick days, just like everyone else. This was probably the hardest transition for me so far. I have to think to call “work”, “work” and not “school”. It takes a minute, when I panic that I haven’t set up anything for February vacation – to realize that there is no February vacation any more. Becoming an Adult may actually be harder on me that it is on him. It’s just such a huge change.

Yes, I know we are moving into adulthood and working toward independence; as much independence as his capabilities will allow.  Yes, I know this was the goal all along, but on the other hand, he’s still so much a child. He’s still watching “Barney” (22 years of Barney! That’s a Support Group I need to form, anybody?), he’s still reading and watching Disney and is not embarrassed to hug and kiss his Mom.  On some level, for me, as much as I always work and hope for more progress, I love it,  it’s nice.

This should be a happy time, and of course it is. He is an adult. He is in a program that he loves, but when summer comes around and it’s time for Camp to start, it’s a little bit sad that he doesn’t get to spend a fun filled, happy-go-lucky summer at camp as he used to. He only gets his two weeks.

Because…..he’s an adult now………


Sometimes “I told you so” is just good for the soul

DC in Uniform - Challengers Baseball

DC in Uniform – Challengers Baseball

DC played baseball with the *Challengers League from the time he was 5 until he aged out last year at 21.

The “official” Challengers field in town is located in front of the school he attended for Birth to 3, Early Intervention and Kindergarten. Needless to say he was in this building and with many of the same teachers for a good 4 or 5 years.

I’ve had my battles with the school system over the years, but none so on-going as the need for speech therapy. This battle began in Early Intervention and continued on straight into High School.

Sign Language, I believed was absolutely necessary, thanks to my sister in-law, Lisa who convinced me that sign would not prevent him from speaking if he had the capability to eventually speak. It might lessen his frustration level at not being able to communicate (it did). But sign was not, in my mind ‘Speech Therapy” and should not be considered as part of the Speech Therapy hours listed in his IEP.  Speech Therapy in a group setting also should not be counted as his speech therapy. Yes, he did need to learn to be able to focus in a group setting, but focusing in a group setting is not speech therapy, it is learning to focus in a group setting.

I can’t tell you how many of these teachers told me he would never speak. One speech therapist, Barbara, actually told me that I was obsessed with DC speaking and “You know, if he isn’t talking by now, he probably isn’t going to”. He was 5 at the time.

They went so far as to schedule and pay for an evaluation at a well known Medical Center to have him evaluated for a **“Talking Board”. I went to this evaluation, never intending for him to use a Talking Board, but to use the evaluation as proof he was capable of speech. As it turns out, this is exactly what the Doctor doing the evaluating said; he did not recommend the Talking Board and noted this in his report.

I didn’t give up on my battle with the school system, but I also didn’t want to waste any more time getting him the speech therapy he needed, I went out and got other speech evaluations and hired a private speech therapist.  Liza was wonderful and made a great deal of progress with him. She was with him for many years.  Armed with the evaluations and his progress, I was finally able to prove this to school system – Quite the Catch 22, he had to speak before they would agree to one on one speech therapy! Unfortunately it took a few years to get to this point with them; years that would have been wasted if he were not receiving the private speech therapy.

But back to baseball…….

Our league used a PA system and we always had a volunteer to announce the games.  Each game was opened with the Pledge of Allegiance.

When I was President of the league, I decided that every player should have a chance to be in the spotlight. Each week two players were assigned as team captains and another player was assigned to do whatever they were capable of doing on the microphone.

Some led the pledge; some sang a patriotic song or just yelled “Play Ball!”  If they were not verbal, they stood at attention at the Flag or threw out the first pitch.

Our games were played on Saturday mornings and Wednesday evenings. DC was about 10 years old and on this particular Wednesday when he was scheduled to be in the spotlight. Coincidently all of the teachers from the Early Intervention Program had been attending a meeting at the school after hours and decided to come down to watch the game before heading home. Most of the players had been their students at one time or another.

Many of them had not seen DC in about 4 years.  Just imagine the feeling I had to see DC to go to the mic and sing “America the Beautiful” as clear as a bell with all of those “professionals” who years earlier told me he would never speak, sitting right there in the stands! I could not have PLANNED this if I tried!

Sometimes an “I told you so” is just good for the soul, even if you don’t have to

actually say it out loud.

*Challengers Baseball is a division of Little League for children with physical and intellectual disabilities

**”Talking Board” I don’t know what they might be called these days, but that is what they were called back in the 90’s.

A VERSION OF THIS POST WAS PUBLISHED ON THE MIGHTY – “They Told Me He’d Never Speak. Then They Heard Him Sing”