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Camp You B You – An Amazing Weekend

April 27, 2014

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My baby caught his first fish this weekend.  And he had a lot of other first experiences thanks to an amazing opportunity hosted through Marcus Autism Center and Camp Twin Lakes with a high functioning autism camp called You B You. It was an absolutely fantastic time and I wish every family that is raising a child on the spectrum had the opportunity to experience what we did.  Truly amazing.

 

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We got there on Friday night and checked in. We were assigned a specific volunteer. The camp was staffed with personnel from Marcus Autism Center, staff from the camp that serves a variety of special needs and volunteers.  Our volunteer helped us load our things into some wagons and head off to our cabin to get settled in before dinner.   The cabin was split into 3 sections partitioned off by pull out walls and with 2 doors.  Each family had their own section with a shower, restroom and 5 twin sized mattresses. It reminded me a lot of going camping as a Camp Fire girl.  You bring your own bedding or sleeping bag.  The kids were all excited to use their sleeping bags for the first time.

 

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I was supposed to bring a pack and play for Thad but forgot so Tom fixed up this DIY toddler bed guard rail with a drawer, umbrella and our luggage.  Thad did great seeing that he’s never slept in anything but a crib or pack and play. The fact that he was absolutely worn out by the end of every day probably helped.

 

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After settling in and playing on the playground, we headed over to dinner.  All the meals were served in 2 hour blocks with several choices for picky eaters and gluten free options.  The first night we had BBQ sandwiches, coleslaw and baked beans.  They had set up carnival type games outside for the kids along with horse shoes, volleyball and just sort of letting the kids meet each other and hang out.  I didn’t bring my camera so missed out on a lot of cute shots.  Durn.

 

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The next morning we got up and had breakfast served buffet style in the cafeteria at 8 am and headed out for activities. They had several stations set up over the huge camp ground that you could pick to do at your own pace or go back and re-try things you enjoyed.  We started with the rock climbing wall.

 

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Rett looks so cute in his gear.  He got about 2 feet up and that was enough.  The kids were so light it was almost impossible for the instructors to not just hoist them up the wall which freaked him out.

 

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Evie had a similar experience. I was very proud of her for trying though in the past she has just said she didn’t want to do it so at least she was willing to try it out.

 

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Daddy showed us up by climbing barefoot all the way to the bell.

 

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Next we headed to fishing.  They had cane poles set up with bread that the kids just dropped over the dock.  Evie caught 2 and Rett caught 1.   They had a snack station with drinks set up near fishing so we stopped and had a break.  Gluten free options were also available.

 

After that we took a paddle boat out on the lake and paddled around.   Kids loved it but Thad’s life jacket bugged him quite a bit so that was a short trip. Also paddling a boat while you’re 8.5 months pregnant is not so fun.

 

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The kids were excited to be Merida and try out archery.  Evie kept yelling at Rett to loose his arrow. Hilarious.

 

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Rett had a lot of fun doing archery and seemed to have a pretty big interest in it so maybe that will lead to something in the future through scouting.

 

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Evie broke her glasses (again) and Tom was unable to fix them so lots of Evie without glasses pictures.  She is in a phase of finding places for me to ‘picture her’, this was one of her choices.  Her sensory issues are at a peak right now so lots of chewing on her chewy necklace that is actually a hairband from Target.

 

The first day Rett crashed pretty hard core around noon. They stayed up really late and then got up really early plus lots of activities so we decided a nap was in order. 2.5 hours later, we were all feeling ready to do the rest of the day.

 

The night they broke the parents off and had baby sitting for the children by ages with pre-planned activities.  The parents basically introduced their families and then we had another hour to pick from a series of activities to just hang out with our spouse or have some down time without kids.  We did a pontoon boat ride with drinks and snacks around the lake.  It was great connecting with other parents, hearing struggles and successes and seeing what everyone else is tapping into within the community.

 

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At night they played movies in the gym on a giant projection screen and the kids brought their sleeping bags and pillows to put on the gymnastics mats and ate popcorn.  Frozen and Despicable Me 2.  The kids could make noise, get up and walk around, sing along with the movie, squeal at the good parts and generally just be themselves.  And the parents could relax and have a ‘go to the movie’ experience without all the stress.

 

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The playground was even sensory friendly. It had several spinning type contraptions for the kids.  My kids aren’t huge spinners so they weren’t into them but they were highly utilized by the kids who like that sensory input.  They even had one that required more than one person to spin it and you have to work together.  They also had a music type station that made noise as you did different things to it, lots of balance and strength and no swings to watch out for.

 

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The next morning we did breakfast again and then headed to arts and crafts since we hadn’t done that the day before.  The kids had fun making bracelets and painting.  Then we repeated fishing, boating, archery and rock climbing.  Rett was insistent on doing archery himself that day. We asked him about rock climbing and at first he said he couldn’t do it because it was too scary but then he wanted to. He got twice as far as he did the day before! I was busy watching children and didn’t get any pictures, unfortunately.  Evie tried again too but didn’t do much better.  At least she was willing to give it another try though.

 

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More picture me moments.

 

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By Sunday a lot of camp personnel recognized my children and called them by name. They were very interactive APPROPRIATELY, very good at giving specific instruction politely where the kids got what was being asked of them.

 

During the parent meeting one parent brought up all the firsts their child got to do that weekend.  And we had the same experience.  First fish caught, first paddle boat ride, first time climbing a rock wall, first time trying archery, first time going off to ‘camp’ and sleeping in cabins, first time using sleeping bags, first time being in a canoe and I hope the first of many Camp You B You’s that we get to experience.  The freedom of being able to trust every volunteer there to understand and accept your child and that every parent got the quirky noises and not quite right speech was just a weight lifted off my shoulders that I carry everyday without realizing it.  There were no excuses or explanations.  There was no bullying or teasing.  It was just awesome.  An incredibly fantastic way to end Autism Awareness Month.

 

We were so blessed to be a part of it and I hope if you live in Atlanta or know someone who does that could benefit, that you pass along the info. This is the second camp they’ve hosted and they are hoping to host them even more often.  They also host camp in the summer for children only so this is a great way to take your child with you there and introduce them to the camp if you do want to do the summer drop off.  It starts at age 8 so we have awhile to wait but I have no doubt Rett will love it when the time comes.

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