There were tears at the beginning and tears at the end.
But they couldn’t have been more different.
When we left Deane at camp, the tears were stomach-churning, guilt-inducing don’t-leave-me tears. When we went to pick him up, the tears were a huge relief: He didn’t want camp to end.
We had been told that he settled down after the first few days, but had no word from the camp for the following week. We again relied on the no news is good news approach.
What was wonderful to see was that when Deane began to cry, his counsellor asked him to tell us about his time at camp. He quickly calmed down and used his voice output device to tell us what he had been doing. His first two messages to us were “My favourite thing is arts and crafts” and “I don’t like kayaking.”
The first comment remains a surprise, but the second we’ve known about for a while. It wasn’t the information that was important, it was that rather than us having to guess, Deane took the initiative and told us about his experience. This was the approach the counsellors had been using all week and Deane rose to the challenge and found his own “voice.”
We know that Deane can express himself quite well when he wants to, but he has always been reluctant to do it around strangers. By using his voice output he took charge of his activities and how people interacted with him. A major step toward independence.
One of his counsellors took us around camp and showed us some of the things Deane had enjoyed including the environment building, the nature walks, arts and crafts, campfires and the meal hall.
He didn’t go swimming because it was too cold and they couldn’t convince him into any of their slow-moving boats. OK, so he hadn’t changed that much.
As we said goodbye to his counsellors, we asked Deane if he wanted to go back next year and got a resounding “Yah!” That one word made it all worthwhile.
(Sorry about the delay in letting you know how Deane did. Two rounds of GI bugs, a cold and the best weather weekend at the cottage this summer postponed the writing process.)