Baylon is a very bright, very enthusiastic, very sweet, but very lonely little boy. His autism spectrum disorder isolates him, but does not protect him from being aware that he is friendless. His heart breaks, and mine breaks for him. Over the years, Baylon's father and I have encouraged him to join many team sports, activities and clubs in an effort to facilitate the formation of friendships and boost his sense of self-worth, with no clear result. He does not do well in organized sports at all. He has rejected nearly every individual sport he's tried and the peer bonding just doesn't come. Supervised children are pleasant enough around him, but Baylon does not get invited to birthday parties or to come over after school. The invitations simply do not come. His peers do not seek his company, and he knows it.
Baylon's diagnoses cause him to have a limited, intense scope of interests. Baylon is in love with technology. His father and I have decided to stop fighting that (Turn off your screen! Go outside!) and instead, embrace it and try to encourage it in a direction that could serve him well in life. He lives, breathes, eats and sleeps computers "“ his dream is to become a Microsoft programmer one day "“ so why not nurture that? I began researching recreational computer-related programs for children. Enter computer camp.
I have done a lot of research and chosen Emagination Computer Camp at Bentley University in Waltham, MA as the best fit. It will be his first sleep away camp experience. The $2675 tuition covers two weeks of residence, courses, recreation and meals. They allow him to select three workshops (he is inside-out with joy about this and immediately selected Operating Systems, Minecraft and Web Design, in that order) as well as one "unplugged" activity, for which he chose swimming. "I'm going to computer college!" he crowed. I wish you could've seen his face.
The camp attracts a lot of children on the spectrum and it has programs and policies in place to foster their love of and skills in technology, but they also take care to encourage important socialization and to provide a more typical camp experience, as well, i.e. "retro games," like Frisbee, capture the flag, etc. They have a nurse on staff and train their counselors on how best to mentor spectrum kiddos.
At this time last year, Baylon was involuntarily in hospital for suicidal ideation at age eight. He has come a long way with the help of his team of therapists and medication, and is doing much, much better today, but still his life lacks much of the day-to-day joy or even general sense of well-being that most of us take for granted. He is deeply unhappy, anxious and tormented so much of the time and I cannot summarize how excited and happy he was when I offered him Emagination camp. Despite our family's financial... shortcomings, I would pay any amount to see him light up like that. While our family's current income is at a level that should sustain us, we find that we are struggling with staying afloat due to repeated bouts of unemployment over the past several years, most recently a period of six months that Doug experienced ending in Sept 2012. These long periods of severe income cuts caused our personal debt to climb, recovery has been slow and we find it often a losing battle to cover even ordinary month-to-month expenses, never mind larger, planned expenses like school clothes shopping, birthdays, summer camp, etc. I made the decision that cost would not stop me from making this camp available to my son, however, and I find myself now reaching out for help to make this dream come true. Please consider including us in your generosity. Thank you so, so much.
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