Today is the first day of third grade for Connor. I’m so excited and optimistic. He’s moved from the primary school to the elementary school and, so far, the teachers seem really sharp and willing to support him as much as possible.
Staff with the right attitude make all the difference in the world.
That isn’t just hyperbole, but a truth I’ve experienced first-hand. We just wrapped up the BEST summer vacation we’ve ever had. Ever. Sure, part of it is growth and maturity, combined with the right medication, but those things don’t magically remove all challenges. The lynchpin of the success was the staff. And to think that it happened by accident.
See, I wasn’t quick enough this year when it was time to enroll for summer camp. The adaptive camp we used last year fills up quickly. When I called, they only had three different weeks with openings. I took them with a knot in my gut, knowing the rest of the time would have to be spent at the school district camp. The school district took over a couple of years ago, after many issues with the Y running the camp. Still, I was worried that we were in for another experience where they staff to the bare minimum, and can’t deal with kids that don’t fit inside the box.
I was so wrong.
From day one, they greeted us with smiles and positive attitudes. Some of the staff already knew Connor from the after-school program, and were enthusiastic about working with him. They were staffed with an extra person in case additional support was needed. The staff actually had experience with kids on the spectrum (imagine that!). They matched him up with the staff person with the most background in special needs. He worked amazingly well with Connor. If there was a challenge that arose, he would greet me with his game plan to address it.
I’m almost swooning just thinking about it.
One day I picked up Connor and was greeted with a note. His staff person knew that writing and spelling was a challenge for Connor, so he decided that a great way to wrap up the day would be to help Connor write a note to me that summarized the day’s events. I’ll admit it, I teared up. These camp counselors were nothing short of amazing.
When I would complement them on what a great job they were doing, they would remind me that it’s their job to make every child’s camp experience a success.
IT’S THEIR JOB.
And they were right. But I’d grown so accustomed to having to train and teach and coerce and beg staff to work with my child, that I simply had no expectations left. And it shouldn’t be that way. No parent should dread the thought of summer to the point of feeling physically sick.
The reason I’m telling you this is because I want everyone to know that it IS possible to find supportive staff for our kids. It isn’t just possible, but should be the norm. It’s important to keep fighting for programs to really be inclusive for our kids, and not just throw out that term as lip service.
I didn’t do much writing this summer, and the reason was because things were so pleasant and calm. It was nice to just enjoy the ebb and flow of the hot days, without a sense of dread or fear of what was happening at camp.
Don’t settle for less. Let staff know that inclusion is possible and can be successful. I promise, it’s worth the fight.