Sunday, June 21, 2009

People just like us.

I had such an interesting week last week. I had two campers and both had autism in varying degrees. One of my campers was 10 years old and almost completely non-verbal. On the first day of camp, he exploded while we were doing arts and crafts. He started yelling and screaming and I had to hold him down on a bean bag. He pinched and elbowed me and I had to keep him from hurting other campers. He hit another camper 3 or 4 times on the back and was sent home. I have bruise marks on my arms from where he pinched me. Despite the fact that he tried to attack me, I was so sad to see him go. He was such an angel when he wasn't going crazy. At first I didn't understand why he would do that... but then I realized how frustrating it must be to not be able to communicate what you're feeling. I think he was trying to tell me something and I was not getting it. I couldn't help but love him. Camp decided to let him have a second chance and he came back on Tuesday. He was much more cooperative the rest of the week. Whenever he seemed frustrated or on the verge of a breakdown, I asked him for "hugs." He would throw his arms around me and look up and smile. It totally melted my heart. One thing that I've thought a lot about since I have been here is how the parents of these people must feel. The week I spend with them is trying and difficult, but they leave after five days. Their parents have to care for them everyday of their lives after that. How tiring! I think the love they have is something I will never fully understand unless I have a child with a disability. I have realized how important it is that we really do use 'people first' terminology. I really think that is one lesson I have learned through actually spending time with these people. Despite their physical and mental limitations, they are people...people with families who love them unconditionally and miss them when they are away... people who have feelings...people just like us.

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