Asperger’s and Boy Scouts
It’s been a busy summer and with all the back and forth (visitation schedules) updates here at the ole M&M have been slim. It has felt like the summer has simply been rushing by. We have had some things kiddo has been prepping for this summer, summer camp and an upcoming trip to UVA to the Kluge Clinic to see the Developmental team whom we haven’t visited in a very long time. That is later in July, earlier this month he met with a doctor who evaluated him and mentioned his hypotonic legs. She asked if he was in Occupational Therapy for it, which I said had to wait because as his dad puts it “you do ‘your’ therapy on your schedule, I will do mine on my schedule.” So OT had to be discontinued through summer with a holding spot for the fall.
So our big thing for the summer, since therapy seemed to be pretty much out of the question with the back and forth schedule (we live about an hour and a half away from each other), was the preparations for the Boy Scouts summer camp trip to Goshen’s Camp PMI.
Discussions had started about Camp PMI before Christmas that year and man did they rev the boys up about it! They talked about the previous groups trip and how many badges and pins they earned and how much fun they had. There were pictures of the time at camp and all the activities. By the end of the presentation every Webelo (because kiddo is a Webelo) wanted to hike the 100+ miles over the Shenandoah right then and there and go to camp, including my kiddo.
I spent the preceding months talking with kiddo about all the ins and outs about spending time away from home, he had a overnight with a friend (his Aspie buddy) and he had a camping trip with Richard. We discussed that Richard nor I would be able to be there for the ENTIRE week, but would be able to come for the second part (half of Weds-Fri) and he would have to be there with his leaders until then. Everything he said was fine, he wanted to go to camp.
Last week we started getting his gear together for camp and the proverbial S#*! hit the fan. He realized he would be at camp during the Fourth of July. (That was the first thing) Then he realized he would miss his show, Adventure Time on Monday night (second thing). Then he said he would have to go straight to dad’s (his father) and wouldn’t even be able to come home AT ALL before leaving to go to dad’s for two weeks.
He started to mope around and say he didn’t want to go, I was torturing him. UGH. We talked a lot about it and his interest would go in and out as we went over gear for the trip. At times he seemed a little excited. So we pushed forward. Richard had been a scout, his father a Scout Leader, and both his brothers had been to Goshen. I know that I cannot hold kiddo to the same standard, but I want him to have the same experiences if possible. Richard tried to talk about all the amazing things he would do to amp him up, which helped minimally.
So the morning came for us to drive out to Goshen… a long 3 hour trip through the mountains of Virginia. But we arrived as the second group from his troop and when he got there he was really happy and excited. The day was hot and actually pretty nice. The camp staff was on what seemed to be a perpetual caffeine high which make them very entertaining to the kids, and really fun. We did the tour around the camp and by the end, kiddo didn’t even see us anymore, he wave goodbye as he walked away with his troop and I thought “ok, that’s it, he is fine.” It hurt a little, I wanted my baby to need me a little more, but then heading home I thought that it was a really great thing, he could be with the other boys and was ok.
Except he wasn’t.
I wanted him to go to camp because I thought it would be really good for him to be with other kids (though he isn’t social) and possibly build some bridges with them over things that he is interested in like the things that they do in Boy Scouts (Archery, Knots, Camp Fires, Swimming, Fishing Etc.) and things he is really good at. When he is skilled at something, he is proud of it and he actually likes to share it with others, even his peers. I thought this would be a great opportunity for him to do that.
We dropped him off on Sunday, by Monday night I got a phone call, my kiddo choking on his tears “mom… I just really need you… when are you going to come, will you come tomorrow, please come tomorrow?” I said that it would only be Tuesday and we could talk about it, but he was pretty upset.
HERE, exactly HERE is where I am not sure if I made the right choice. I have this fear. It started with my fear of letting him go because he has Asperger’s and I don’t want him to get made fun of for “being weird” or acting odd or anything like that. I want him to feel like any other kid. I know he is not just like every other kid, but he wants to be right now. One day I hope and pray that I can make him understand that his Asperger’s is a beautiful part of him and makes him unique and part of what is great about him. But right now, he doesn’t feel that way. Right now he feels isolated and angry a lot of the time. So I try to protect him. Firstly- I was scared to leave him there to begin with, but he walked off just fine and was happy and that was great. But then he called and he asked me to come. I think about it now and think I could have said “no.” If I had said no would he have been ok? Or would he have started on a downward slope, something the pack leaders didn’t know how to cope with? If I had said no would he have started to hurt himself (because that is still a pretty normal behavior for him when he becomes very upset) and do other things that the other adults and kids didn’t understand? I was afraid of what would happen if I said no. So I didn’t.
Lil sis and I packed up the car and headed out to Goshen on Tuesday. It poured rain the entire way on and off, making the trek last nearly four hours. When we arrived, we checked in and were told where the boys where- archery. Nifty! So we headed in the direction of the archery field. Lil sis slipped, fell in the mud and hit her knee. She was wet, muddy and very unhappy. By the time we got to the tents where archery was, she refused to come in but just stood there with her arms crossed. I think she had had enough of that day.
Kiddo didn’t know I had arrived, he was about to take aim. So I watched as he shot the bow, two bulls eyes out of five! I talked with the pack leaders who said he was doing ok during the day, but nights were hard. His buddy and tent-made came over and said that he really missed home and said he was really sad that he would going to miss me and Richard so much because he would be leaving to be with his dad right after camp. He also said that he wasn’t sleeping (kiddo has a hard time just sleeping at home) because he hated the cot. The pack leaders said a kid in another camp was waking regularly screaming with night terrors which I am sure didn’t help either.
Kiddo turned off the firing line and saw me and came running. My aspie doesn’t hug me… ever. Yesterday he hugged me SO big and tight I thought my eyes bulged a little. He sat down and his eyes were red and watering but he was smiling.
I spent the next few hours going to the rest of the program day with the pack and Lil sis. I think I may have a few badges coming my way soon I talked a little here and there to kiddo about how I would like him to stay at camp and I think he was doing really well and that I think he can stick it out. I even tried to compromise saying that we could leave on Thursday instead of Friday because I didn’t want him to miss out of all the badges that he would be earning.
The programs were done for the day and it was time for dinner. I had packed dinner for Lil Sis and I and we met the boys at the mess hall. That is where it all went to pot. Kiddo asked his leader if we could leave the mess hall earlier to pack to leave. I said, “but buddy, you are gonna stay and then I will come tomorrow to stay for the night like we talked about, remember?” He lost it, he started to wail that he hated it there and he couldn’t stay any longer. He went over to the tree and started to hit it and pull bark chunks off cutting up his hands in the process. I tried to pull him over and he started to flail his arms, by then the boys were all in the mess hall. I told him that we could leave earlier, but that I needed to go back home to take his sister and get things done. I could come back, but he needed to stay right now. He tried to throw himself on the dirt and I pulled him up. I asked him if we could go to the mess hall, he needed to eat and he calmed down enough to go in but he would look at me.
In the mess hall he hardly ate anything and went in and out of bouts of gagging tears, at one point he arched his back and scream “I just want to go home!” He looked at me and said “why don’t you want me?”
The scouts finished up in the mess hall, his pack mates were starting to look at him with real concern. I told his leaders that I was going to take him home. I didn’t think it was good to leave him in this state with… well, anyone really, nor did I want all the boys to think he was weird or odd or whatever because he couldn’t cope. They thought he might do fine if I just left, I said yeah… but he might do much worse over night and I just can’t leave him like that.
So kiddo got his way- I know that is what all the folks at the camp thought and probably others. I even second guess what I did. Maybe he might have done ok had I not shown up. He wasn’t sleeping, I think probably he would have burned out one way or another. Maybe he just wasn’t ready, perhaps he never will be. That is the thing that worries me.