Summer Camp of 2012 was Life Changing

Summer camp of 2012 was life changing for my son. Alec is a high functioning Autistic child, he is also socially and emotionally delayed by three years. Summer of 2012 he decided to take the Swimming merit badge at camp, even though swimming was usually a trigger for his tic’s and meltdowns. We (his parents) were somewhat concerned; however, we always try encourage him to try new things. We looked at the requirements and figured that there was value in this merit badge even if he never entered the water and never finished the merit badge. This summer camp was also the first summer camp that his dad and I would not be attending with him. We were nervous and concerned about leaving him; how would the staff handle him if he had a meltdown? Would they be understanding? Do they know how to handle a child with Autism? Would they get frustrated with him and send him home? Because of these concerns his dad and I did accompany him to camp; so we would ensure that the staff knew that Alec is Autistic and that they would be prepared with the issues that might arise. Like every BSA summer camp we have been to, part of the first days activities was the initial swim test, we knew he was nervous about it because he has several verbal and nonverbal tic’s that tell us when he is stressed, excited, anxious, or nervous. As I am standing behind Alec on the bank I begin to her his verbal tic’s start to develop. At that time my anxiety grew, I was starting to second guess our decision to let him go to camp. Alec tired the swim test and was unsuccessful, and a meltdown ensued. The head of the waterfront came over to make sure Alec was ok, we then informed him that he was Autistic and the water and the waterfront was a trigger for him. We then talked to Rex about possibly pulling him from the swimming merit badge class, he discouraged that request and started asking us questions about Alec. He wanted to know what some of his interests were, and how we handle difficult situations like this at home. At first we were taken a little by surprise with these questions, as we are normally not asked these types of questions. We told him that he liked rocks, Legos, Video games and a few other things, we then talked a little about how we handle situations like this at home and we talked about his verbal and non-verbal cues so they could pick up on them as well. He then reassured us that Alec would be ok and he would have a great time, he also told us that he would have just one instructor work with Alec so he did not get frustrated with multiple people giving him direction. It was time for us to leave and Alec is still in his meltdown state we were still worried. Later that night we got a call from the Scout Master letting us know that everything was ok, Alec eventually got up and went to dinner and was enjoying the evening activities. On Wed. Alec’s Scout Master called me, when I saw his number show up on my phone I figured that they were going to tell me that Alec needed to come home because he was having too much difficulty at camp. So as I said hello an excited voice on the other side said I passed, and I almost began to cry, he wanted this so bad and to see him succeed was wonderful. As he handed off the phone I began to ask questions and they told me that they took the info that we had given them earlier in the week and used that as motivation. They put rocks in a bag and dropped the bag in the water and told Alec that he could have the rocks if he went down after them. I was told that he paced back and forth on the dock several times before he jumped in, but he did, I do to see a video of the staff working with him and patiently encouraging him as he took and passed his swim test, they were right there in the water right next to him every step of the way. Alec not only passed his swim test he also completed what will probably be the hardest merit badge he will have to do, all because of the caring and supportive staff at Camp Rota Kiwan. Alec struggles to fit into society every day, to him passing the swim test like all they other boys can means that he fits.