Carson went back to school this week.
We refer to it as camp around the house, but it’s the summer academy program at Cedar Chapel Special School. He began his second stint as “camp counselor” this week. He’s, of course, a student getting some summer enrichment, but it helps us because his brother does summer camp in Ocean Pines. When its time to leave the house in the morning, “it’s time for camp” sounds a lot better than “it’s time for school” in mid-July.
Monday was the big first day, one we had been thinking about for a few weeks. Since his special friend Danielle is his primary teacher at school, we were at peace about his return to a somewhat normal society.
Like most folks these days, we have apprehension about both kids being in “camp” these days. The typical questions about health and safety were running through our heads and continue now, too. However, both our boys need socialization with kids their ages as well as adults other than their parents. It’s critical for them.
For Beckett, 12, there were clear indications we had to re-introduce him to society. The isolation was taking its toll and he seemed to have anxiety for a while about seeing friends and hanging out. It was sad to see for our typically social child.
A few weeks of camp seem to have done him some good. The camp is working on a smaller scale this summer with number restrictions and seems to be taking the proper precautions. He has reported he’s enjoying camp more this year because there’s less campers. Twice this week he actually fell asleep in his younger brother’s bed around 9 helping us tuck him in for the night. It’s great to see the physical exhaustion we used to see from him pre-pandemic when a busy schedule of school and sports practices left him drained by the end of the day.
It’s equally fun to hear our kid tell us jokes he heard from his fellow campers and detailing the antics of certain kids. It’s always enjoyable to hear him answer some version of the question, “What was cool about today?” Camp for Beckett has brought some normalcy to his life as well as ours. It puts us back on a drop-off and pickup schedule, which is probably best for all of us.
Though we worried about Beckett’s social isolation during the pandemic, we were stressed over the impact it would have on Carson. We knew months of not being in school and getting off schedule would lead to major regression for him. He’s not an outgoing kid until he really connects and feels comfortable with others. It takes some time for him to overcome his shyness.
Since he doesn’t talk, he finds other ways to connect. It’s not something that occurs easily for him because he’s shy by nature even without the means to be able to communicate as easily as others. For Carson, the social piece is one thing, but there’s also getting him back in the mode of going to school and being around other people on a routine basis that was important. If there was any chance for success in September upon a return to school of some sort, we would need to ease him into it. Providing a month of a school-like environment with instruction during this crazy summer will help all of us in the fall.
As we prepared for the start of our school camp, the biggest hurdle along with the social piece was the requirement to wear a facial covering. During a go-cart expedition in June, Pam had both boys wear a mask. Beckett was fine with it and seemed to like concealing his identity at times. For Carson, it was a mess. He has sensory issues and clearly did not like it. Whether he would ever be able to tolerate it all was a major question after that tough experience, according to Pam. A few weeks later on a similar go-kart trip, I found some success initially but once he got hot it was all over.
After lots of practicing with different styles, talking about it and seeing the rest of us wear a covering over the last few weeks, something seemed to click with Carson. He put his mask on Monday morning right before we pulled up to camp and left with his teacher happy. Reports he wore his mask the entire day without complaining were both a relief and inspiring. I am sure he hates having to wear it, but he showed amazing resilience in accepting it as a reality and proving once again he will overcome.
It occurred to me this week if a 10-year-old special needs boy with a host of unique issues can deal with his own anxiety and issues with wearing a mask, pardon me if I have no sympathy for the grown adults who simply choose to not wear a facial covering because it’s inconvenient or uncomfortable.
It’s tough to see my kid sport his mask in and out of camp daily, while hearing stories of adults verbally abusing restaurant staff members when informed or reminded of the requirement to wear a mask inside. Yeah, I can’t tolerate that sort of immaturity and self-righteousness at this time.