August 14, 2006

Mentoring

Posted in Disability at 10:38 pm by caelesti

It’s funny- I thought I’d be writing _more_ during the summer, rather than less. But I want to be outside more, During the school year, I’m inside more, studying and in front of the computer- so I guess I’m more prone to write.

Anyhow- I did participate in several things relevant to this blog- I worked at Camp Discovery, which is a summer camp for Asperger’s/HFA kids for a week. It is at a beautiful location Courage North in Lake George, Minnesota. I have been doing this for about 4 or 5 years now- I’m not even sure how long! Each cabin has 8 kids, 3 regular counselors that are there all summer, a mentor (that would be me) a couple support staff who rotate watch duty throughout the day and night, and a “Cabin Support Person” (CSP) They used to call the CSP’s Autism Consultants, and the Mentors “Counselors with Autism”.

I love working there! The kids are amazing, and the camp is one of the places which I feel most at home. This year our campers were the most well-behaved I’d ever had! Granted, they were older- 14- 16 year old girls- but there were really very few problems. A few minor incidents, but no major tantrums!

Once I was a camper myself- at age 15 though that was the only time I went. When I first came I would barely even admit I was autistic- but I made great friends, I had an awesome time with the activities. I learned that I wasn’t alone- there were other people like me, there was nothing wrong with us, we had nothing to be ashamed of, and in fact, a lot to be proud of. And perhaps most importantly, for the first time I met autistic adults. Finally, I had someone I could look up to, who I could actually relate to. Who really understood where I was coming from.
It is crucial for young people with disabilities to have older, successful role models like themselves. Increasingly, as more of us go to college, I see more of us become both regular and special ed teachers. This is excellent- hopefully a new generation will grow up knowing that we can succeed. Kids with disabilities will not have to feel like freaks that are trapped in a perpetual childhood.