Summer “Break” for Autism Families
We aren’t even halfway through summer and I’m already exhausted. Those iconic long, lazy summer days do not really exist for us. Our weeks are full of speech, occupational, ABA (behavioral) therapies as well as ESY academic tutoring so my two sons with autism do not regress in their skills over the summer.
My google calendar looks like a rainbow! I try to color code which teacher or therapist is on what day and time and whether that service is at home or at one of our local schools. We have SIX professionals working with our boys to make this happen. Add to that coordinating the FOUR different childcare providers so that we have coverage for work or the occasional social obligation and it can be like modern art.
Sometimes I am envious viewing the social media of my friends without special needs traveling on multiple family vacations, sitting on a beach or just relaxing. My husband and I met while working at an amusement park for one summer for a college summer job. He was the manager at a cotton candy stand and I was a rollercoaster attendant. There are days when I would find even cleaning up after a nervous rider as relaxing!
In recent years things have improved. We are finally able to take a long summer weekend vacation in-state. We find a place where I can cook the necessarily specific food, has space that is safe from running and we can take a moment to relax. But if we decide to go to a restaurant or attraction it is all hands on deck! My husband is with our teen while I’m with our 10 year old. We are grateful this can happen now that the boys have greatly improved due to their therapy, schooling and two parents that give them all their time.
I am as grateful for this mini getaway and the boys’ progress as I am for all those who give of their time so that my boys can receive much needed services.
This is why ASMV’s Camp FRIEND program is so special to us. The boys are not able to attend any other summer camp in the area due to their communication needs and their cognitive delays. This program is designed especially with those challenges in mind. Swimming, crafts, arts and exploration with other kids their own age…an iconic part of summer that I thought would not be unavailable to us. Instead, when I told my younger son this week that he gets to go to Camp in a couple weeks, he ran around so happy and excited.
Seeing his reaction and thinking about his Camp days made me smile – I might just get a summer break after all!
Robin Suzelis, Director
Autism Society of Mahoning Valley