Wanted: energetic and enthusiastic person who likes like swimming, boating and being outdoors. Must be patient, have experience with children and comfortable “living-in” in separate accommodations during the week. Pay negotiable.
Sounds like a great summer job, doesn’t it? Shouldn’t be hard to fill.
Oh, did I mention must be strong enough to lift a 65-pound, 14-year-old disabled child as well as help feeding, changing and conducting all activities of daily living for him.
Suddenly the field of candidates dries up.
It has taken me many years, but I’ve finally figured out that what I need is a camp counselor to help me look after my son. This has probably always been true but is becoming more so as he gets older.
Deane likes to laugh. Even as a skinny little kid, he had a great belly laugh. But to get him to laugh you have to engage him. He is non-verbal, but very aware of what is going on around him. He likes animated conversation and big reactions – the goofier the better. Strange noises and fart humour are guaranteed to get him going. He is a teenage boy, after all.
Talk to him about the Toronto Raptors. He’ll respond on his iPad with the names of all the players and teams. Strum away on a guitar or pound on some drums and you’ll have his undivided attention.
But most people don’t approach him as they might another 14-year-old boy. Because of his small size and his limited communication, many people treat him as a little kid: raising their voices and talking at him rather than with him.
I saw this a lot at the hospital. Dealing with the rotation of nurses and therapists, there were a few who recognized that you can, and should, make Deane part of the process – whatever it may be. And there were others who treated him much the way they treated a toddler.
We have had some caregivers who connect with Deane – they can joke with him, give him a hard time, cajole him into doing new things and generally just hang with him. In return for this attitude, Deane responds with overwhelming affection and, generally, good humour.
Unfortunately, camp-counselor-like people grow up and get full-time jobs. So, especially with summer approaching, I’m once again searching for that elusive steady flow of former counselors. Sounds so simple, but has been so frustratingly hard.
Blogger’s note: Anyone who knows someone who fits this description, drop me a line. All suggestions appreciated.