I sent my boy off to camp this week. A week we've been preparing for for the last six months. He started fundraising for camp back in the fall. He dutifully sold coupon books and cookie dough to help fund his trip to camp. It was sometime during the cookie dough fundraiser that he understood going to camp meant GOING and STAYING at camp. He was going to go somewhere he had never been before and stay there for five days all on his own. After selling enough cookie dough and coupon books to cover over half the cost of the trip, he informed me he would not be going, thank you very much. I struggled with this. I didn't want to force him to go. However, I believe that the activities, field trips, and programs planned for this week are adventures he would love taking part in. What to do?
Our plan was to play up everything awesome about camp and do our best to alleviate his fears and anxieties concerning camp. And as far as I could tell, the plan seemed to work. Sam left this morning after a hurried goodbye. He got on the bus and is at camp. I am praying to the powers that be to look over him and give him strength. He needs it more than most.
For many people routine reigns supreme. Autistic people take the love of routine to a whole new level. Sam finds comfort and control in his routines. Certain foods must be eaten on certain days and daily tasks must happen in the exact same order. Any change to routine would best be prepped for, if at all possible. Sam can go about his day with happiness and security because he knows what to expect and what is expected of him. But camp was a huge unknown.
Not knowing when he's supposed to brush his teeth and having pancakes on Wednesday instead of Tuesday may not be a cause for worry for most kids, but for Sam all those tiny little changes in his routine add up. They add up to a tremendous amount of I don't know and that is incredibly scary.
He will be with the entire sixth grade. All familiar people. His teachers will be there. Dad will stay over two of the nights. He's memorized the daily schedule. I'm praying he can focus on the adventure and not on the unknowns around him. I'm praying he doesn't break down when things get a little challenging. I'm praying his friends and teachers give him the extra support he so desperately needs this week. I wish with all of my heart I could be there with him. But in my heart I know this is something he needs to do on his own. And I believe he is ready. He has what he needs to handle any difficulties that may come his way. I have told him this many times these last few weeks leading up to camp. I pray that he believes me.
What I didn't prepare for was how very much I would miss him. I can get through this...right?