My husband is a social worker and has been volunteering at KindTree Autism Rocks Camp for years. The camp is designed for people with autism - of any age - and their families. It is a safe place where families can come without fear of being judged or criticized. Activities are designed to be both fun and easy going.
Every year my husband has asked if all of us in the family would like to go. I've been nervous and hesitant because we have little kids and camping can be stressful with little kids. Since this year our youngest is 3.5 years old, I decided that I thought we could handle it. I signed up to be a volunteer at camp as well - making sure to have alternating volunteer shifts from my husband so that one of us would always be available for our kids.
Before camp, my husband talked to my girls a little about autism. He kept it very basic. At camp, I noticed, my girls didn't differentiate between people with autism vs people who are neuro-typical. They just made friends and had a blast.
A few high-lights from camp that made me grateful I got to participate:
- On the first night of camp, everyone had an opportunity to say their name and what they were looking forward to at camp. It melted my heart when one ten year old girl said, "I'm excited to be myself here."
- One night a musician with autism gave a concert. She talked about how autism has actually helped her with developing her musical talents because she was able to be so focused on the music. As she spoke, the audience cheered and celebrated autism together.
- On the last day of camp, one adult proudly drew on the white board "Autism Rocks. And it's awesome!"
This will become an annual tradition for our family. I'm sure we learned more and enjoyed ourselves more than we served - but isn't that kind of how a lot of service experiences end up?
Interested in getting involved? Visit https://kindtree.org/ for information. Also, be sure to check out a spotlight on service we did on a kid-volunteer from a different camp for people with autism here: http://littlehandscan.org/serve/2015/7/22/spotlight-on-service-norah-at-camp-yakety-yak