As Avery's parents, we wrestle with decisions regarding the right setting for her to learn, develop and experience life. There is fine line we walk between inclusion and comfort. A few years ago, on the recommendation of a family member who graciously volunteers at Camp PARC (People Always Responding with Compassion) in Pennsylvania, we gave a sleepaway camp a try. Camp PARC provides a great mini-camp with fun activities and social events for people with developmental disabilities.
This new frontier of Avery sleeping away from home rattled all of us. In her first year, camp counselors reported that she mostly kept to herself and only participated in a few activities. The group activities were held in a large building that Avery would not enter. Avery has sensory issues that involve crowds and loud noises. Try as they might, the counselors could not coerce Avery into staying for the presentations. When asked about camp, Avery seemed indifferent about the experience.
After a second year with similar results we started to think that maybe this wasn’t the best fit for Avery. But this year something triggered a spark. It seems like Avery crossed that comfort zone and decided that camp PARC was for her. This year, when confronted with the Activity Hall, Avery stepped inside as if it were her second home. She strode confidently to the front row dancing to the music. When volunteers were asked to come on stage to be a part of the show, Avery raised her hand and jumped on stage. She participated in just about every activity offered at the camp.
That same day, a petting zoo brought animals to the camp, which Avery typically avoids; well I think this photo tells the story better than I can. Avery surprises us again and again when we least expect it. We must learn to never underestimate her ability to adapt and ultimately thrive under ever-changing conditions. We must also stop underestimating the kindness, compassion and patience of others who have begun to see what I have seen: there are fireworks inside of our kids and we will never know what ignites them, and makes them shine.