[Clarification: Eagle Lake Camp is not a camp specifically for autistic/AS kids. It is a regular, Christian, residential camp.]

Rob just left yesterday to go to Eagle Lake Camp in Colorado. This is his third time going to this camp (and unfortunately the last time – at age 18, he will be too old from now on). This time (for the first time) he flew by himself, and had to change planes once. Since he is now 18 the airline would not provide an escort. That made me very nervous; but he is a smart kid and did just fine. The camp had staff at the airport to meet him and transport him to the camp.

I have to say that Eagle Lake camp has always been very accepting and accommodating of him the times he has gone (not always true of Christian groups, unfortunately).  Of course, Rob is pretty high-functioning. He always does the residential (“rez”) camp – so he is not out backpacking.  Rez camp has a predictable structure and activities, and the cabins are small and overseen by a couple of counselors. So the adult/kid ratio is good. The food is good and varied and they know not to force him to eat stuff.  The counselors know to help him out if he has a problem with a social situation, but that hasn’t happened often there. Rob has really gained a lot of self-control in the past few years, so he is pretty good at walking away if he is frustrated, and at talking things through.

We have really struggled through the years to find suitable summer activities for Rob. The day camps run by the local parks and recreation were usually too unstructured; but Rob hated the ones specifically for autistic or PDD or ADHD kids because he felt set apart from the other kids in the neighborhood or at school. He wanted to do the things they were doing.  Like most situations, it really depended upon the staff at the particular center or camp. So sometimes he would have a good experience for a week at a Vacation Bible School (the really well-run, organized, structured ones).  Sometimes he would do well at the summer activities run by his public school (usually the organized field trips to things he liked – the pool, a movie, bowling). We did pay one summer for a very expensive, private structured day camp for 4 weeks. That was a good experience; but the next summer, the same camp was a disaster and we pulled him out before the first week was over. He also played soccer, and liked to ride horses, so we did a couple of sports day camps or horse day camps. The rest of the time, we hung at home, watching videos, reading, and swimming. Where we live, it is too hot to do anything else during the day.

We never would have considered a sleep away camp for him, until one summer when he was 15 he went on a 4-day trip to California with our church youth group. My husband went along as a chaperon, but Rob did much better than we had expected. So the following summer, we packed up the family and drove to Colorado, and dropped Rob off at Eagle Lake. My husband and daughter and I spent the following 5 days in the area as a vacation, so that we were with 2 hours drive from Rob in case something came up at the camp. But he did great.  So the next summer we flew up as a family, dropped him off, and went a little farther away (but still within a few hour’s drive).  He did great. So this year he is on his own; we stayed home.

So far no phone calls; in this case no news is good news. I’m sure he will be fine. Rob is anxious to prove his independence, so I think he is extra motivated to do well.

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