Friday, August 12, 2005

No Knitting...but a little happy dance!

Something worked out!

Gillian spent the week in the YMCA Aquatics Day Camp!

There is a local group, Reach for the Rainbow, who provide one on one support for children so that they can attend camps with "regular kids"...(more politically correctly called NT, or NeuroTypical kids)

I applied for support ages ago, when we believed that Gilly would age out of her program and have NO services this summer. My theory was that a week of structure would help reinforce how to behave in a structured environment.

I was tempted to cancel when Gilly's therapy was continued after the court victory, but I didn't. I'm so glad.

After a rough start (The camp form up point was in an empty parking lot across the street from the YMCA. The lot is empty before 10am because it is at a busy shopping mall with access to the subway, so commuters would take all the spaces before shoppers could arrive. I mention this to emphasize how FREAKING BUSY this area is...effectively bounded by a major artery and highway!!

So, expecting Gillian to mill around a loud, confusing, traffic-heavy environment was a bad plan. In the first 10 minutes we were there, she escaped from her worker 3 times, ran into the street after a ball once...(she loves bouncing balls)...well, you get the idea. Adele, the worker was well informed about Gilly's history (the advance interview was very thorough) but you don't really appreciate what "will run/bolt/dash" means until it happens.

I should point out that Adele was tiny. Not Calista Flockhart tiny...really teeny, not a hope in heck of passing for 5 feet tall, weighs so little as to require a booster seat in Canada, tiny. Gilly is a sturdy little girl, but geez she can run... Adele was wearing sandals and was really challenged to run down Gillian in less than 50 metres!

Anyway, after the third attempt a new game plan was devised. The aquatic camp was for 7 - 12 year olds (the sweetie, Christine who ran the program looked the other way for Gillian!! ) The group was broken into three subgroups, 7&8, 9&10 and 11&12 year olds, each with a cousellor. The counsellor for the oldest kids, Mike is a college kid, way over 6 feet...way over...who won a gold medal for his highschool as a sprinter. If Gilly dashed again, Adele took over the 11 and 12 group, and Mike fired his starter's pistol.

I still had my doubts about this arrangement and spent the first two hours of Gilly's camp experience hiding behind a potted plant in the lobby of the YMCA, pretending to knit, but really spying on Adele and Gilly.

No worries, Gilly loved Adele, didn't have any serious meltdowns all week...loved art projects, running around in the gym chasing balls...and of course swimming, 2.5 hours each day. She was dead tired at the end of the day...but happy tired.

The staff was FABULOUS, they included Gilly in all the projects and tailored them to be accessible for her (simplifying art projects etc.) They read in her report that she loves squishy, tactile things, so they created an art project for Gilly that involved horrifyingly messy papermache-type stuff and let all the other campers help make messes with Boo! They encouraged her to pick favorite buddies (usually the older girls) and sit with them. The campers were encouraged to look out for Gilly, in a very kind, friendly way.

Oh, Gilly painted a picture today and all the counsellors and campers signed it.

Sniff...I'm feeling all smooshy...