Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Theater Camp Success

What a difference a year makes - and what a difference the right people make. My girl completed a week of musical theater camp including a performance - a miracle after a dismal experience a year ago.

No one-on-one support required. No accommodations. No one treated her like she has autism. And when allowed to be a fully active participant with the right kind of teaching and encouragement, she flourished at musical theater camp this year! I am one proud mom!

My dear friend Amy said, "I'm telling ya. Sometimes "programs" are not where it is at. Just takes a little loving from people."

And loving she got. The camp directors planned a schedule that balanced movement and vocal exercises and acting exercises and snacks and lunch against the times to sit down and study a script. It worked - and it worked well.

On the day of the performance, my girl began exhibiting behavior that she was anxious. I heard her mutter something about what happened last year (story is below). She had just one brief outburst and it was during the dress rehearsal- and I went in and got her out. (I stayed for camp in the lobby in case I was needed - and that was the first time I was needed.) I took her off site for something to eat, assured her that she didn't have to perform if she didn't want to. She wound up going on stage, facing her fear and anxiety head on - she had the support of her peers on stage and the support of her directors, and she knew they had her back. She even missed one line and kept on performing. I had a front row seat to little miracles that day. When you understand the disaster a year ago of a camp for kids with autism, you'll appreciate the little miracles, too. My kid overcame an episodic memory of a horrible previous experience at a different musical theater camp.

A year ago, I enrolled my child in a theater camp specifically for children and teens on the autism spectrum. The camp is affiliated with a big famous elite university. The bio of director of the program says that the director an expert in emotional regulation challenges in autism.

The camp for kids with autism a year ago supplied a one-on-one student peer. My child had different peers during the camp (I am not sure why they couldn't assign her the same peer for the whole camp!) and one of them was behaviorally threatening when my child asked for a break. "If you don't behave, you'll get kicked out of the play." Rather than take a walk on the campus with my child to give her a break with the one-on-one peer, they tried to threaten her to behave. When I addressed this statement with the director, she said she would correct the student peer.

I don't believe the director knows much about emotional regulation in autism - the director provoked my child into a meltdown and then told my girl to "sit down there and get control" of herself. When she could not get control, the director removed my girl from camp two days before the performance. The director told me to take my screaming child to the emergency room right away - but my child calmed when I arrived because I know how to help her regulate. Interesting, disappointing, and sad that the "expert" in emotional regulation PhD did not know how to help her. And the expert promised to call me the next day - a call the expert never made to me.

May all of us find the places where people are loving on our children.

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