Saturday, July 18, 2009
Redefining the "Happy Camper"
I am a very poor blogger these days. Blogging requires somewhat of a repetitive tempo, and my internal blogging metronome has seemingly ground to a halt. This despite a veritable wealth of fascinating goings-on in the microcosm of our family, and in the macrocosm of the autism community. I feel like opportunity after opportunity to write some thoughts on things like the IACC, like the new movie Adam, like the shutting down of fraudulent autism cure peddlers "Care Clinics", like some new and fascinating research and how people are incorporating its results, like so many other things.
So why today? Well, I've been shamed into it. First, I notice that my friend Do'C has posted a new blog entry over at Autism Street. Next I notice that my friend Bev has done the same over at Asperger Square 8. The three of us make up the triumvirate that has spoken several times to large audiences about blogging and autism, but here at One Dad's Opinion there was just the sound of crickets chirping. Then, I log on to the good ol' Autism Hub and see a post by Sharon in which she names little ol' me as a guy who writes things about autism that she likes to read. Okay, so when called out by "Best Family Blog in Ireland", one tends to want to respond.
So on to the point of this post, which is to describe a recent camping trip. Here in our neck of the woods, we hang out with a group of 4 or 5 families on a regular basis. When we all converge, as we recently did at a campground surrounding a few lakes here in SoCal last weekend, the tally comes to 10 adults, 13 kids. 23 of us (one family was absent this time due to a new baby arriving a few weeks ago). Of the 13 kids, 5 have been diagnosed on the autism spectrum. If you want to see a classic, moving, changing representation of the topographical model of understanding the autism spectrum, join us for a weekend sometime!
This group, I'd like to mention, is NOT a support group. This is a group of families who enjoy spending time together, no matter anyone's specific circumstances. We are also a heterogenous group in terms of our views of autism etiology and treatment, and it matters not one whit.
So how, with this many different people of different ages and interests and, yes, neurological profiles, does one ensure that everyone is a "Happy Camper". Easy answer: One simply cannot. But one can describe several circumstances of Happy Campers, as well as some simple and general observations, so here goes:
In the campground's pool, my son J was doing his typical pool routine after playing with friends for a while. He will break away from the group and just kind of "be" in the water. This consists of swirling around, inverting himself, periodically floating and treading, eyes closed most of the time, tuning out minor nuisances and most noises (I think), and reveling in the weightlessness of being water-bound. But this time, he had a silent and unintentional partner. One of the other boy's Moms pointed out to me that her son, who is three years older than J and very similar to him in a lot of respects, was doing EXACTLY the same thing about 12 feet away. Neither one seemed aware of the other, but their movements, and tempo, and intent seemed identical. It was Autistic Synchronized Swimming.
One of the boys, though he will never come right out and say it, is qualified at age 8 to be President of the Audobon Society. Upon watching some ducks (apparently a newfound 'special interest' for Baby C) one Mom asked another what kind of duck was that peculiar one with black feathers and a white beak. This boy, who was otherwise silent as he watched the ducks (and was keenly aware of all other surrounding wildlife) piped up and said, "That is NOT a duck, but it IS a Fowl. That is a Western Coot." Later as, he walked along side me in his trademark skip-step with windmill arms, he stopped and whacked my arm with his. "Look! 2 Grey Herons!" And he skipped off. His identification abilities do not stop at birds - he intently studies any and all animal info he can and is an expert in recognizing virtually all birds, critters, and bugs in Southern California. He is 8 years old.
Several of the campers found great solace in enjoying some time around the campfire. Some of these campers enjoyed cigars, Black Bush whiskey, and a game of Dominoes. These rare and elusive creatures are called DADS, and can be viewed in their natural habitat sometime after 11:00 p.m.
One of our goals was to get J to learn how to ride a bike. This he did, for at least 20 feet without anyone's assistance. Hooray for J! Physical coordination is not one of J's long suits (as I wrote about here). Meanwhile, my middle son T quite literally drove his bike into the lake. When I came along with Baby C strapped in behind me (and limited in my ability to react as a result of that), one Mom had jumped off her bike, and was diving in after T who at that point was just seen as a floating safety helmet. She retrieved the child and the bike. T, once he shook off the initial shock, turned to me and said - and I quote - "That was AWESOME!"
Baby C likes ducks, Baby C likes water. Baby C does not respond to his name very well when interested in other things. Baby C will walk well over 100 yards without ever looking back to 'reference' Mom or Dad. Baby C has the autistic child's trademark lack of a sense of "danger". Baby C was watched very, very closely every minute of the time. Baby C's parents, One Dad and One Mom, are looking forward to Baby C becoming plain ol' C. The terrible two's started in our house 6 years ago and haven't stopped yet as the baton has been passed form child to child. Do we get an award for all of this? Oh yeah, we did :)
Ya know .. this wasn't so bad to get back at it. Maybe I'll hang around here at One Dad's Opinion a bit more often...