So yesterday was monumental in so many ways. I was both excited and terrified. Yep. That about sums me up. It was the first day of a new day camp for Michael, and for the first time EVER, we decided to try a camp without Michael having a shadow/companion. Truthfully, I have been seeing him taking steps towards this for a long time, but I was scared. There. I said it. I was scared about people not accepting him for who he was. I was scared he would feel overwhelmed and not have extra support. With him having Type 1 Diabetes I also worried. Could he handle the social anxiety and managing his diabetes alone? Only one way to tell. Try. I always tell Michael not to use his autism as an excuse that he can’t try new things. He asked me several years ago about autism and what it meant. He’d heard us talking about it and others in his therapy circle. He wanted to know why he felt different than other kids. We told him. As most children who find out who they are, he was relieved. He also began sharing more of what he was feeling inside. He’d always done that, but now I think he felt truly comfortable being who he was.
The next logical step was him interacting with kids who are not all like him and without an adult to facilitate. Yes, he is still working on how to make small talk with other children. Social skills groups have helped a lot. But he is getting there and his confidence is growing. I also worried about kids shunning him. I have to say, all the neuro typical children Michael has met over the years have been kind, inclusive and have asked him questions too, trying to engage him. Now that he is older, I have told Michael that should he feel comfortable, explaining his autism can help other kids understand him more.
But back to day 1 of new a new camp. On Michael’s first day anywhere, he has pretty much always brought the first comfort toy he attached to a two years old- a Barney stuffed animal. Now, this is not the original Barney. He met his demise in the washing machine many moons ago. As per usual yesterday, Michael had Barney in the car with him and checked with me about taking Barney into camp ONLY for the first day. This is what he would do usually. I sensed his calm in spite of the Barney, and told him Barney could come in the car, but he would not need him at camp. His fidget toy would be enough as he uses that to self-regulate when nervous or excited. I was totally shocked when he agreed and Barney stayed in the car on the way home with me! I don’t think it came as too much of a surprise, but when I picked him up at the end of the day he had done fabulously! He was ready. He had been ready for awhile. I have his Educator to thank for telling about how it’s important for him and other kids without autism to interact and get to know each other’s similarities and differences. I learned that I need to continue to be as brave myself as Michael is, facing his social anxiety with a positive attitude knowing he will learn by doing.
Exceptional Parents, how often have you held your Exceptional Child back due to fear of rejection or hurt? They are capable of so much more than we sometimes think, and even if things don’t go well, trying and getting out there, will help them build the resilience they need to teach the rest of the world about what people with autism are capable of. Until next time.
I am a writer, speaker and parent coach. I blog about how my exceptional son with autism and type 1 diabetes is raising me to a better human being and exceptional mom. My mission is to empower other exceptional parents to trust in their parenting instinct while letting their exceptional child open their eyes to all that is possible! For more information on my coaching services and to download a copy of my FREE EBOOK “5 WAYS TO HANDLE EXCEPTIONAL FAMILY ANXIETY” see my website, http://www.creatingexceptionalparenting.com.