Acceptance, the Greatest Gift

After three years of making our way in this world with Ninja Cat’s high-functioning autism, we have finally run into my first real taste of – I wouldn’t say discrimination – but someone not willing to try and understand. It absolutely broke my heart for this to have happened to him; but, I guess we should feel lucky for to have taken so long to have happened.


It was a local art camp. Only four days for four hours each day. Ninja Cat loves art and some formal training, however brief, would be a great help to him. That and it would be a great chance to earn his Artist activity badge for Webelos. When I called to register him and asked about him coming even though he was a high functioning autistic. They said it would be no problem and to bring him. So, I’m left thinking that they will be prepared for him and it would be a great four days of learning about something he’s pretty passionate. So confident, in fact, that I took the first day to go berry picking 45 min away from my house with my best friend – even letting her drive. That confidence soon shattered.

Not one hour into the first day the camp calls saying that Ninja Cat is having trouble and wanting to come home. I told the camp director a couple of quick things to do to help him calm down (give him a quick break and a copy of the schedule) and get back to participating. Apparently, that didn’t do any good, because they call a bit later where I talk to him personally and get him to stay. Again, I told the camp director to get him a copy of the schedule (she hadn’t done that yet), give him another few minutes to get his bearings, and would call to check on him after I finished. Later, he was somewhat better, not great, and he said he could last until I came to get him at the end of the day.

At the end of day, the camp director and I have a talk. Only then do I find out that she was blindsided by his autism (the person I registered through didn’t pass along his difficulties??) and that she admits she doesn’t have the skill set to meet his needs and there was no one there with the knowledge or training to help him. She all but threw her hands up right then, not even willing to hear the tips and tricks I have to help him acclimate. Optimistically, we came to the agreement that it was first day jitters and that he would be better tomorrow. But if not, he would come home early from camp. She even sent me an email over it. I wouldn’t say it was tersely worded; but, it was plain the director didn’t plan on even trying to make any accommodations for him, despite his difficulties. But again, me and my optimistic self knew that tomorrow was going to be better.

It wasn’t. The camp calls before the start time saying that he’s going to have to come home. He had carpooled with his best friend’s mom, who was still there and brought him home. When the three of us talked about it, we came to the conclusion he had just gotten impatient for the day to start and wanted to go ahead and start drawing something. But, the plan was for them to go outside first so the art supplies hadn’t been set out yet. It sounded like they didn’t even really try to get him to slow down and participate with the rest of the group.

Every other time Ninja Cat has participated in anything, everyone there has gone above and beyond to make him feel accepted and welcome. This time it doesn’t feel like it they tried. I admit I’m hurt and upset. I’m trying to see things through their eyes. It’s hard. I wish they could have done more. I wish I could have done more.


One thought on “Acceptance, the Greatest Gift

  1. I hurt for you! Understanding autism as I do, and being a teacher,this makes me mad! Honestly, high-functioning autistic kids & truly gifted kids are often one in the same. They share many characteristics, at the very least. Many of these children don’t “do” social activities without adult encouragement & assistance. I doubt, if you had explained to this Director that your son was highly gifted & bit socially “awkward”, she would have reacted in the same way.

    I have learned in my lifetime that most people act out of ignorance rather than meanness. I think this person heard a term she knew a (very) little about & put up a wall. I don’t think she has been trained well enough to be the Director of a program that could deal with a diverse group of children. My ultimate frustration would be with the Head of the Organization (Yes, I understand that this person & the lady you spoke to might be the same person.) who obviously didn’t plan their program well.

    It’s funny how some Certifying conditions are better accepted than others. My physical handicap is obvious & people (thankfully) go out of their way to help me. I am grateful for that help. My husband, however, is profoundly hearing impaired-a fact a stranger would not realize unless he was in the strange habit of staring deeply into others’ ears, or unless my husband broke down & told him. Some people are much less accommodating with my husband’s handicap-expecting him to “listen harder” or becoming visibly frustrated if they repeat a statement once in a louder voice & he STILL didn’t get it. The differences in they way we are treated by the general public really drives me crazy!

    Your son falls into my husband’s category. People will not “see” his differences & will have a much harder time accepting them. It’s a real shame, too, because those closed-minded people are going to miss out on getting to know a remarkable young man (who’s probably smarter than them in many areas)!

    I’m wondering if your school’s art teacher gives private lessons or could put you in touch with someone who does? Also, are you part of any support groups for families with Autistic kids? Maybe the leaders of those groups have camps planned already-with staff that have been properly trained!

    Love you, friend! Praying for you through this really hard time!


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