Yesterday was the last day of summer camp for Johnny. The best part of the 5 weeks was seeing the big smile on his face every day before and after camp and the lack of anxiety in him. He’d be happy to see me and rush into my arms and then he’d turn and look back at the camp counsellors and be sad. He’d want to go but stay at the same time. I was amazed and overjoyed at how conflicted he was. It was very different from when I picked him up on Fridays at school (they day he didn’t ride the school bus home) and he couldn’t wait to quickly say “bye bye” to his teachers and leave. I loved seeing my little guy have this huge sparkling smile when we dropped him off and when we picked him up that would last for the rest of the day.
When the counsellors realized Johnny wasn’t going to be at camp next week they all rushed over and wanted big hugs from him which he happily gave and received. He ever made sure he sought out 2 counsellors on his own that were not in the room to make sure he said “bye bye” to them.
Johnny really made a lot of progress already this summer and really used his words a lot including two to three words together to advocate his needs. He was able to work with the same camp counsellor as last year and she was amazed at how much he had changed since last summer. She used his PECs communication book that the SLP from his school made for him and helped him become more comfortable using it to clarify what he was requesting or trying to say. She said he loved choosing different activities everyday and continued to surprise her with his ability to be so curious and his capacity for having fun. He surprised everyone (including his Mommy) by singing many different songs with the other children during music circle time.
I think one of the reasons Johnny really had a great camp experience is that they practiced one of the ABA principals of highlighting the positive and downplay the negative or challenging behaviours. They would be very cheerful, encouraging, enthusiastic and build up his confidence and make him feel good about him self. At the beginning of the second week of camp Johnny began doing some of the challenging behaviours that he did during the school year such as hitting and pinching other children when he failed to communicate what his need or wanted attention but they quickly extinguished these behaviours by using positive strategies. They congratulated him the minute they saw him doing something they wanted him to do ie do an activity at the art table by himself with minimal assistance or when he was being very helpful by assisting other kids.
The summer camp also understands how all children learn a lot through sensory play and music which for my little guy would be a slice of heaven. Playing with goop, play doh, painting lots of pictures, gluing art, not one but TWO music circles and water fights put a big smile on his face. At home Johnny began to want to do art again at home and experiment with new techniques ie painting trees and flowers. The main teacher for his group spent a lot of time with Johnny during the art time because she loved how enthusiastic he was when he was painting for doing a glueing art project. *see below.
Since Johnny has had such a successful experience at camp we have decided to do two things:
1) We have asked the teachers and counsellors at the camp to write up a report on how Johnny did, his progress, and what strategies they found successful with him. We will then present this at his “Case Conference” meeting for his IEP for his Senior Kindergarten year. His afternoon school in his JK year was using these principals but the regular JK class he was integrated in was not using them consistently and I suspect this was really frustrating Johnny. Now we can show that ABA and posiitive strategies do work and will help Johnny be happy and successful in the classroom.
2) The Nursery School that operates the summer camp has a special communication social skills program two afternoons a week. They work on peer to peer play, turn taking, imaginative play, role playing and spontaneous communciation all in a fun, happy, sensory atmosphere. We are trying to fit in speech and OT but at the same time we think he needs a fun place to go a couple times a week while his is going to school where he is working on social communication while enjoying himself.
So here is a big collage of what 5 weeks of art at summer camp looks like for Johnny.