We have just begun week two of my summer job. I am working at 2 different camps. As you know, I work at a high school during the school year so I very intentionally work with younger kids during the summer (this year - mostly 6-9 year olds). It is something different and new. It doesn't feel like work most days and the rewards are huge (eww- cliché). I wanted to share some of the things I have loved about week one.
(1) One early morning, the door of a minivan opened and "Jared", with a larger than life smile and true enthusiasm, yelled, "GOOD MORNING, FRIENDS!" Everyone should start their work day with a greeting like this. Today I entered the lunch room and "Jared", with mischief in his eyes, announced that "Tracy" rhymes with "Crazy" and then got the most delightful case of the giggles.
(2) "Tiffany" refused to let an adult clean off a dry-erase board before she had a chance to show me her masterpiece. All I needed to give was a little high-five and she beamed like she had gold.
(3) "Jonathan", when confronted with the prospect of having to be sunblocked before going out to the sprinkler, politely stated that he "would rather not have to go through that routine again because Dad already did that this morning!"
(4) Today - the first really, really beautiful day in recent history (what is up with all the rain?) a coworker and I watched as "Lena" skittered, flit, and rambled across an open field after a little white butterfly. We continued to watch as four or five other children left the line that was getting ready to head in for lunch, to follow "Lena" in her dance.
(5) "Kimberly" drew a very special picture of Princess Tracy and her magical pet for me to hang in my office. Since I am traveling between 2 camps, I taped it to the dashboard of my "mobile office". Later, she too beamed as she got to be "Mr. Fox"...What time is it, Mr. Fox?...2 o'clock...What time is it, Mr. Fox?...DINNERTIME! Her excitement was palpable.
Now consider for a moment that the children I work with at camp are children with moderate to intensive disabilities. They have Down Syndrome, Autism Spectrum Disorders, Developmental Delays, and so on. This can mean that (1) remembering to greet someone takes daily practice and is often done systematically and with little meaning. It can mean that making personal connections can be tremendously difficult...joking, playful teasing, and sarcasm can be far too abstract and confusing. It can mean that (2) learning to hold a marker to trace the numbers 1..2..3..4...is a milestone met in 2nd grade, not pre-K. It can mean that (3) touch is overstimulating and can lead to fight or flight reactions rather than calm words. It can mean that (4) the times when other children want to follow you into your own little world are rare. And it can mean that (5) instances of just being a kid and playing like everyone else are moments to treasure, soak in, and strive for.
I am so grateful for these moments and for all the incredible work done by the assistants and therapist who work one-to-one with these amazing kids each and every day. I am the Inclusion Facilitator but it is those individuals who give everything to make sure these kids are successful. I am grateful for the camps which work so closely with the school department to make inclusion work.
I am also grateful for the amazing families I am working with this summer. At the end of the day, I get to come home and turn off the teacher mode a bit. I can let my guard down; relax the structure. Families of children with exceptionalities are always "on". I often wonder if I would have the strength. I encourage you to visit a blog called Diary of a Mom so you can get a glimpse of the hope, the perseverance, the pain and struggles, and the love of one family who have been touched by Autism. It's powerful. Jess's writing is truthful, passionate, and is so full of voice that you will feel like plopping down on the couch with her and a cup of coffee (or a glass of wine) to chat about life. Visit...you'll be glad you did.
I went to the gym today for cardio. I did some running on the treadmill but won't tell you how much because I'm not sure what "taking it easy" looks like with running. If you ask me, there is nothing about running that is ever "easy". I feel good though...knock on wood. My knees are little sore, but no shin splints! I'll keep plugging along! Thanks for the continued support and thank you, Jess and Matt, for your donation, your trust, your willingness to sit on the same side of the table, and for your graceful tenacity. You rock!
Thanks for reading. More later...