Find Out What Jen Finds

My journey on the spectrum of life … and the lessons I learn along the way …

Summer Camp is not all fun and games

  • September 9, 2008 6:25 pm

There is a private post version of this that I am very open to sharing to my readers if you request the password and please don’t be afraid to ask because honestly I need people who can empathize with me to give me feedback and support.

Since it is a sensitive issue (to others), I can’t really go into major details here on this public post with a good conscious, but will post without showing the hidden content:


JUNE
The series of events from my perspective:
I was excited about both Kiddos being able to attend Summer Camp this year. My main focus was on The Younger because I was really concerned about his anxiety. Here is the email exchange between me and the church addressing this concern and asking for confirmation of the program’s structure:

From: Children’s Ministry
Date: Wed, Apr 9, 2008 at 10:16 AM
Subject: RE: day camp

No there are 3 separate classes for Day Camp. A 3 year old class, 4 year
old class and a 5 year old class.

[signed]

—–Original Message—–
Sent: Wednesday, April 09, 2008 5:50 AM
Subject: day camp

I meant ask u yesterday ab this. Is there only one 3,4,5 class? I don’t want
The Elder and The Younger in the same classroom. I have them on the waitlist at [The Local Church of a Different Denomination] but I thought I better make sure first before I committed there. You
can reply to this so it will go to my phone.

Thanks!
jen

I was very pleased and was also glad that I didn’t have to enroll them in 2 separate programs. How convenient!

At the last IEP revisiting meeting before school ended, The Elder was granted an ESY, extended school year, for the summer for 2 hours of ABA support – that ends up being a half hour every other week during the summer. The Teacher specifically told me to talk to the director and teachers to let them know that she was not there to observe or evaluate them or the program, but the purpose was to ensure The Elder was maintaining the skills through the summer. I paid a visit to the director and teachers of the summer camp to do just that. The conversation went like this:

Me: I just wanted to let you know that The Teacher will be coming to observe The Elder this summer according to his IEP. She wanted me to make sure that you understood that she is only here to make sure The Elder maintains his skills and not to observe the teachers.
The Director: Oh I’m familiar with the process and so is [The Day Camp Teacher] since we were both educators in the school system. She will be used to that.
Me: Ok great, I left The Teacher’s phone number with [The Day Camp Teacher] in case she had any questions.
The Director: Yes that is why I placed her in his classroom.
Me: Oh thanks! I really appreciate that.

Again I was very pleased with the open and receptive attitude that each seemed to have in regards to having The Teacher there for The Elder. I really felt like this was a huge step in the right direction to calm my fears in being judged and ostracized there. I really felt like this was a huge step in the right direction to calm my fears in being judged and ostracized there. People, especially those who think they are your friends, try to minimize that fear just because they don’t judge or ostracize you (or at least they don’t think they are). This makes makes me feel even more rejected because now, my friends don’t even really understand what me and my family are undergoing. I am left feeling like my problems are trivial compared to theirs, that these behaviors are typical “boys will be boys” behaviors.

JULY
I receive an email the night before The Teacher’s final observation for the summer.

[Please request password to Find Out What Jen Found in the rest of this section]

I was so in shock, so confused, so hurt, and so angry, all wrapped into a single panic attack. I had totally been blindsided (mind you that this happened about a month prior to The Younger’s incident at a different church). I stayed up late typing out a reply. It would have to be in the morning before I could contact The Teacher to let her know before she arrived. Fortunately I was able to reach her before she left her house and I asked her to meet me at Starbucks instead. I shared with her both the email I received from the church and my reply:

[Please request password to Find Out What Jen Found in the rest of this section]

This email was later forwarded to both The Teacher and The Super Doc. When The Teacher and I met at Starbucks, I had her do all of the talking first, she didn’t know why she was meeting with me as opposed to going to Day Camp for her last observation. I had a few questions I wanted to ask her before I told her so her answers wouldn’t be biased. Some of them being:

  1. About how long were your observations? (no longer than an hour)
  2. How did The Day Camp Teacher and The Director respond to your visits [Please request password to Find Out What Jen Found in the rest of this section]
  3. Why did The Day Camp Teacher have to sign off on the paperwork and why didn’t I get a copy of it? (for her job, she needed the signature to prove that she was there, and she was going to give me a copy of all of it at the end of the summer, which I didn’t get a copy of all of it and she even came by the house the very next day to drop them off into my newspaper box.)
  4. What were her observations of The Elder and how did she interact with him?

This is longer than a parenthetical.
She explained that she pointed out certain behaviors that they need to recognize. For example:

During craft time, The Elder was choosing a crayon and marking a small line. Then taking another crayon and marking a line, then he was marking lines with 3 crayons at the same time, then he was attempting to mark with “20″ crayons at the same time. He was “crayon box hopping” and not being regulated at all.

Her concern which she made The Day Camp Teacher aware of was that he is regressing in the self-regulatory skill and that she needs to limit the number of crayons that he gets to use. Simple enough right?

During outside playtime, The Elder was running off past the area that he needed to stay in. The Teacher happened to be allow to be seen and she explained to him that he couldn’t go past that sign (pointing to a sign).

Her point was to make sure he had visual cues. Even though the sign said “No Parking” the sign was a visual cue of his boundaries.**Those were the 2 examples that stood out because they both involved self-regulation which was obviously what the rest of this post is all about.

I could tell she was getting a little uncomfortable so I went ahead and told her what the deal was. She was shocked. I could immediately sense the offense and hurt from her although I don’t think she would ever admit to that. She kept saying that she was sorry for me that I had to go through that and that they owed me an apology. I retorted that they owed her an apology! [Please request password to Find Out What Jen Found in the rest of this section]
I didn’t initially think that but after she said that I started crying right there in Starbucks in front of her because there was too much truth in it. She gave me some tips for Plans of Action. I’ve taken none. I wasn’t sure if it was worth it. I did request a meeting with specific people in the church, but I haven’t had that privilege and we still haven’t The Meeting yet.

The following email was prompted by the fact that when I picked The Kiddos up from the Day Camp that afternoon, I got zero eye contact from any of the adults in the classroom when I arrived. I continued to act as if nothing happened and got the boys. On our way out, they got their backpacks and I went to pick up their crafts. I got The Younger’s and asked where The Elder’s was (since they did everything together though I specifically asked them to to be separate).

[Please request password to Find Out What Jen Found in the rest of this section]

I was hurt and angry. I immediately called The Teacher and told her what happened. What if I hadn’t asked about the craft? Would they have let me leave without telling me all of that??? So here is the email I send the next morning:

[Please request password to Find Out What Jen Found in the rest of this section]
[Please request password to Find Out What Jen Found in the rest of this section]
[Please request password to Find Out What Jen Found in the rest of this section]

That Thursday before and the following 2 days (Monday and Thursday, and the final days of camp), there were apparently some behaviors that occurred that I was not notified of until Thursday. Well, I was notified before that but via email but didn’t get it until then (and no follow-up call was made to me either to make sure I got the report).

[Please request password to Find Out What Jen Found in the rest of this section]

The first ‘live’ notification I received was very abrupt. I remember the conversation verbatim and I remember exactly how I felt.

[Please request password to Find Out What Jen Found in the rest of this section]

Hmm. How nice. Should I just assume that it is The Elder, because she wasn’t specific. I didn’t have a chance to ask any clarifying questions due to the amount of time I was allowed to speak.

I immediately called The Hub and then called The Teacher, more to calm myself down than anything else. I knew that if I went there in the state I was in that I would totally make a fool out of myself (not that I didn’t any way). But I finally got composed enough to ask The AP to come with me to pick up the kids (she missed her class because of this). On my way to the church which is literally 5 minutes away from my house, I got a two calls on my cell phone from them. I didn’t answer the first one because I missed it while I was trying to tell The AP enough for her to understand the urgency of the matter (though I was taking my time since I knew that The Elder was safe and no one was getting hurt). The second one I was able to answer.

[Please request password to Find Out What Jen Found in the rest of this section]

I was fine until I was shown “compassion” in the most misunderstood fashion. There is nothing worse than having someone console you on a feeling that is not consolable by them because the feeling is towards them. That didn’t start the impromptu meeting off to a good start.

Before I go into The Talk, I want to be fair and present the other side of the coin

The series of events from the church’s perspective:
First, they didn’t realize that the ABA support was on-going throughout the summer, despite the fact that I specifically went to THREE separate people to let them know. “Oh I’m familiar with this process” didn’t appear as condescending at the time. It was more of willingness and openness to have some help with him.

They don’t understand that “This is my angry face” doesn’t mean that I’m angry at him. They also didn’t understand that that is a review session with him that what he was doing is not acceptable because it makes people angry. If he concludes that it makes me angry then oh well. Why couldn’t they understand that what I was actually doing was showing them how to handle him? A loving pat on the back as I was “training” him just reinforced that they just didn’t “get it.”

Additionally, The Day Camp Teacher has been dealing with some personal issues with sick elderly which why she was acting a little discombobulated, and as for the other Kiddos, it was those Children’s last week of Day Camp because of being out of town the following week. Of course I didn’t know any of this until after I had The Talk. But I can see where they were coming from as far as conclusions that were drawn, but I can’t explain the lack of communication other than the lame “uncomfortable” excuse.

Me: We need to talk, right now.

It would take forever to type up The Talk verbatim and the post is already over 6000 words! But I’m afraid if I don’t cover it it wouldn’t justify my boycott. Here are some pertinent quotes from The Talk:

[Please request password to Find Out What Jen Found in the rest of this section]

“Well, I think what needs to happen here is that you will need to pretend that we are clueless. We’ll will have to just have a meeting and set up an IEP but just not call it an IEP for us to follow at the church.”

It was one of the best ideas I had ever heard. I wish I had come up with it. But if I had I’m not sure I would have made the suggestion. We set the date for August 10th after church and before school started and we would never get a good time to sit down with The Teacher. I wasn’t comfortable sending the kids to church after The Talk, nor was I comfortable going myself and feeling like I had to explain why the kids weren’t there (if I was even asked why) so I sent The Hub to Sunday School class and stayed home with the kids. Unfortunately The Meeting never happened. Probably because of too much time passage and the fact that was the weekend that I learned that The Elder was starting Kindergarten and the following day was the day the whole ordeal with The Younger happened. Neither I nor the Children’s Ministry have contacted each other to reschedule the meeting. This tells me that it wasn’t a priority to them, nor me. But what am I supposed to do? Just pretend that I wasn’t frustrated that they don’t ‘get it’ and then try to work things out so that I may or may not be disappointed? I have friends at that church…real friends. I love my church…my pastor, my pastor’s family, my Sunday School class, etc. Do I continue to go there and send my children somewhere else?

They were simply looking at him through a “typical” filter. I honestly think that they perceived themselves being supportive. As doing what is best for The Elder. But in the end, instead of learning what is best for him from The Teacher, they assumed that they already knew what was best for him. I in no means think that these are bad people, bad teachers, bad parents, or what not. They were simply looking at him through a “typical” filter. Now if I can understand their perspective and forgive them, why can’t our family receive the same respect? Or is it just easier to turn your head, move on to something “easier” and more familiar. To pretend that it is a non-issue. To act as if nothing happened. To not follow-up or even realize that I have boycotted the childcare since then? I actually didn’t begin the boycott until I realized that The Meeting wasn’t going to happen, which was about 2 weeks after The Talk.