This past weekend, I went on an amazing trip with my martial arts studio. In preparation for an upcoming evaluation, the testing group went all the way up to the mountains to camp! The group arrived Friday evening and left Sunday afternoon. We trained for approximately fourteen hours. This is the second time that I have been to this camp, and I really think it’s crucial to share my experiences as someone on the spectrum in order to help other children with Autism who may be spending some time away from family.
Generally, camp is stressful for many individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders: the food (picky eating), lack of scheduling, and unknown environments are a few of the many factors that play into this. I want to start off by saying that the main reason that I was able to have a fun time was because of the support system I had there.
For picky eating, my parents always make sure that I pack a stash of protein bars just in case I don’t like the camp food. Surprisingly, picky eating was not an issue this time around! Regarding the lack of scheduling, my master instructor provided me an extremely detailed schedule of the whole weekend in advance for me to review. I am so appreciative of her for doing this as it really relieved the stress I would have experienced. Lastly, concerning the unfamiliar environments, I looked on the camp’s website in advance and made my own version of a social story. If you haven’t gotten the theme yet, it’s the importance of preparation and accommodations!
There was one negative incident that happened at camp. This weekend, I had seven hours of homework. Yes, that’s a lot, and I will write a future post about how excessive homework affects special needs students. Obviously, I at times was very stressed due to the burden of my academics. My really good friend and I were “homework buddies” during the weekend as we both had tons of work to do. During dinner on Saturday, I was feeling overly stressed and asked my master instructor for advice on what to do. Her response was that I was being too chatty and not getting enough homework done. She said that I would have had two hours extra to do homework if I wasn’t chatting.
This really made me mad. I held my physical composure, but was absolutely furious. I was so angry because my instructor probably saw me doing homework for at most fifteen minutes. She had no idea how much hard work I was putting in. I have told her in the past that I put my academics before karate, which she respects. So, I was extremely confused as to why she said this. Two of my good friends, the “homework buddy” and another black belt instructor who I have known since my time as a white belt, could see that I was upset. The whole group had a training session after dinner, so although we couldn't really talk about my feelings during the class, my two friends were there for me. After the fact, we had an emotional talk together (consisting of my venting and them listening and counselling). There were many tears, but in the end, they calmed me down. Just to be clear, I’m not upset with my master instructor anymore.
This moment along with many others was one of bonding. Before this trip, I wasn’t really sure if these two people were friends of mine. If you are one of the two people in this story and are currently reading this: please do not take any offense; I just have a lot of trouble figuring out who in my life is a friend and who is not. After the trip, I can absolutely say that these people are wonderful friends of mine. They inspire me, they help me, and they love me. I am so appreciative for our friendships!
This trip up to camp has been a great one. I have never thought in a million years that I would have been able to go to a place like this with so many uncertainties. I am so glad I did. This just shows that children on the spectrum can still go out of their comfort zones with accommodations and a fantastic support system.