It's always important for me to keep Oia involved in purposeful and preferably educational activities while maintaining some sort of a routine during summer break. Her behavior is far better under structure than it is with idle time. She's not the kid that begs to watch TV, or thinks to do much on her own, or even engages in independent play. Oia is less of a leader and more of a follower and a helper. And that's okay... but I'm not going to lie. Filling summer days to keep her mind busy and productive is challenging on so many levels.
Enter summer camp here. An area preschool was recommended to me for possibly being a good fit for Oia. By good fit, I mean one that would welcome Oia and her challenges because they had done so before. The preschool plans themed weeks all summer long where campers have a choice of attending half days, extended days, or full days. I called the preschool to discuss how camp was set up, explained a bit about Oia, and then set up a time to tour the facility before making my decision to send her. My impression of the preschool and staff was a good one. The director was very thorough and asked a lot of questions regarding Oia. We both decided that there was no reason why Oia wouldn't love a week of camp. But, we also both agreed that she couldn't safely attend alone. Swimming, changing clothes, outside play time on very unlevel and root covered ground all requires a great deal of assistance to Oia.
Now, enter a camp shadow, aka Oia's Aunt B. Aunt B was planning a week to visit from Ohio and so we coordinated her visit to be the same week as Oia's camp. Thankfully, the camp director was supportive of the idea to send Oia with her own shadow. And quite frankly, I think she felt a sense of relief as well. My sister is no stranger to shadowing and helping kids with multiple needs so knowing she would be alongside Oia while I was not, was complete peace for my Momma heart.
Aunt B and Oia attended one week of summer camp together from 830a - 1245p. The theme was Rainbows, Volcanos and Bubbles. The week provided several hands-on experiments or demonstrations and according to B, Oia was intrigued by it all. Very attentive. Sat criss cross and listened. Was quiet. Was polite. Was everything I hoped she would be. Only one camper questioned why Oia had braces on her feet and after B briefly explained the need for those braces, the teacher intervened and asked all the kids to gather around Oia while B put them on her (it was after swimming) so in the event that Oia should ever need help with her braces, each camper would be familiar with how to better help. A lovely, teachable moment.
Just one other time did a little girl question why Oia spoke differently than she. B said something along the lines of "That's just how God made her talk" and with that the girl nonchalantly replied, "Yea, God loves everybody". Difference accepted.
And, as Oia often will do, she did take a tumble in the classroom once. Stumbled on her own feet, fell forward, hitting her forehead on a wooden bench. Of course, she screamed. So to not be a disruption to the class, B began to take Oia out into the hall to comfort and calm her down. Once again, teacher intervened. She stated that her class knows how to take care of their friends when one of their own gets hurt. And just as she said that, one fellow camper came running with a cup of water and another with a wet paper towel. All for Oia. And I love that. Another lesson on compassion. Amen.
Oia made friends. Friends chose to sit next to her at lunch, to play with her in the pool, and to play Duck, Duck, Goose during outside play. Oia came home tired but smiling. She had a little spring in her step all week. That translates to all things good. The week was successful and fulfilling and we have Aunt B to thank for that. She is a gem. And she gave up a lot to be here for Oia. Thanks B, we love you. You made Oia an extra happy camper.