That was a big deal.
My thought as I drove off from Worcester Technical School Monday morning. I may have even said it aloud to myself.
After hearing great things about it, Pam researched over the last couple months the county’s STATT Camp Program (Skilled Trades, Agriculture, Tourism and Technology Program) at Worcester Tech for Carson, 13. The plan was for Carson to do three weeks of summer academy at his school and then spend two weeks at the tech school’s STATT Camp, focusing on coding and robotics.
Carson loves technology and seems to have a knack for picking it up quickly. For instance, he recently learned how to take over the entire Sonos system in our house with his iPad. He likes to play the sound of dishes breaking throughout the house at a high volume to scare us. The first time it really worked, and the shock and worry may have shaved a little time off my life. Our kid really loved it.
With camp, a constant distraction for weeks has been whether Carson would even walk into the school on the first day. Sharing the concern, Pam took Carson to the school twice in recent weeks to observe the camp and meet his one-on-one assistant who would be with him throughout the days.
While it was smart to let him get familiar with his surroundings and his new person, I made sure to clear my schedule on Monday in case things didn’t go as planned. Carson was clearly anxious over the weekend. The newness of it all appeared to be on his mind. A few times over the weekend, we found him wearing two hooded sweatshirts around the house and even outside in the heat. The weight of the hoodies we have learned settles him in some fashion.
School drops have typically been my thing and Carson and I have a sound routine. Kids with disabilities like Autism are typically most productive when the schedule is the same and they know what’s coming. Therefore, I aimed to keep everything the same as much as I could for him, but the big changes were the new school and the new person. How well this was going to go was entirely up to Carson. Truth be told, my greatest was he would not get out of the truck on Monday.
Not only did he, but Carson did exceptionally well. In fact, Carson showed a tremendously flexible brain the first morning. Somehow, we got the start time mixed up and ended up being over 30 minutes early. We waited in the cafeteria for his new one-on-one to arrive and he was incredibly patient while coping with some obvious shyness and anxiety. I was so proud of how he handled himself. It was a true mark of how far our 13-year-old has come in his life. There was a time when this hiccup would set him off.
As his parents, we are constantly waging an internal mental battle over how far to push him. We see his potential, but we also realize raising expectations too high can result in behaviors and disappointments. Finding the right balance is the key, but it’s a guessing game at times. Hope for the best and prepare for the worst, while understanding he can do great things.
As it turns out, the concerns over Monday morning were for naught. As it sometimes happens, the difficult day came on Wednesday morning, which played out as a I feared the first day of camp would. Carson’s anxiety got the best of him, and he refused to get out of the truck and go into camp as expected. After about 30 minutes of trying to coax him into school, I decided something was off and headed back home. Throughout the ride, I reminded him it’s not too late to make the right decision. He was not interested.
Once we got home, Carson decided he did after all want to go to camp, but not before a major crying session on the couch. In these cases, we can only guess what’s troubling him. We ran through our typical list of potential issues and were able to discover he wanted to take his personal iPad to camp with him. Pam surmised other kids may be on their phones during downtime and Carson wanted to have his personal device as well. This could have been what was bothering, but it might not have been either. When he gets into these bouts of turmoil – which fortunately are few and far between these days – we just don’t know. We know everything about him, but even we as his parents we sometimes are at a loss at times of heightened anxiety and stress.
With iPad in tow and all the tears out of the way, Carson and I headed back to camp in Newark. We had no issues returning to the camp’s flow, and it appears he just needed a restart on this particular day.
Then came Thursday when we learned the one-on-one he was with would be absent. I initially just assumed we would not go to camp, but the school was able to match him up with someone else. I again wondered whether he would go in the building with his new friend. It’s the schedule and familiarity thing he truly craves and desires to be successful. I was again proud and amazed at his willingness to release my hand, go on his way with this stranger and go about his day.
There were several significant and impressive moments for Carson this week. He worked through his obvious anxiety, which I admit I shared as well. He overcame a lot and seemed to enjoy his week at a new place.
We continue to celebrate the wins and learn from the losses.