When Adam was 4 years old, we received the diagnosis of Autism. Thinking back to all of those years ago I am continually amazed at his progress! He has gone from a little boy who would get upset, throw tantrums, “bolt” off and along with a host of other behaviors like breaking a mirror in his pre-school class during one of his un-controllable behaviors. We were at a loss with what to do or how to handle this as this was new territory for us and all of this was happening so quickly! (As I am sure other parents and families with differently abled children can attest to!) After many visits to the Principal and various Teacher meetings, we were able to come up with an Educational Plan (IEP) that would benefit Adam and his learning.
Flash forward to later years in Grade school…Adam received an in-class Aide (Who was spectacular with guiding Adam). He was much more successful with his focus and listening skills. He received many services that also assisted him with his success…(P/T and Speech Therapy). Over the years that he was in Grade School he made marked improvement with his behavior and focus. Adam was never a child that tolerated change in his daily routine. Closing in on his last year of Grade School, we were very nervous about the transition to Middle School. We opted for a one on one visit to the Middle School over the Summer as to get him acclimated without the added confusion of a typical school day where other children were around. This would prove to be a very smart decision
Now Middle School.....The three years in Middle school were, for the most part, very smooth. He received assistance with the School Social Worker in a Group setting. This was very beneficial as it not only allowed him the services he needed but it also included him in a Group with other children that were experiencing not only the same issues that Adam was going through but also helped him with turn-taking, waiting to respond when appropriate and learning how to work in a group.
These years were a wonderful transition from Grade School and Adam continued to grow and become more independent. His In Class Aide time was greatly reduced. He was still able to ask for help when needed but learned that he was not to rely on someone to always “hold his hand” but rather use the skills he was taught to try and work independently. This skill proved to be valuable as he moved on to High School.
Adam is now a Senior in High School. WOW! So long ago that we were initially navigating the in’s and out’s of the IEP, therapy, In class assessments and Aides… He finally made it!
The High School years were the chance to use all of the skills that he had learned over the last number of years. The School System and all involved made this a huge success!
Adam still has sessions with the Social worker to keep the skills fresh and also to learn some new ones as well. He no longer has an in class aide but knows that he can always go to the Resource room for additional help.
We are now in the Planning Stages of preparing for life after High School.
Adam has taken two years of CATC classes (Capital Area Technical College). His Junior year of High School he took a Graphic Design and Printing class. He truly loved and excelled at this! This is where his love of Computers really flourished.
His Senior year of High School, he took Computer Technology. He was able to reconstruct a computer and have it function properly. Again, really excited and excelled at this. His future plan is to go to College for Computers and possibly work with Software Development. We are planning a couple of College visits to see what might work best for him.
Adam’s response to what he wants to do when he graduates: “Don’t know yet, but I’ll find out soon enough. I either want to work or go to college”.
I cannot express the importance of early intervention and diagnosis…
As soon as we got the Autism diagnosis, we were in high alert mode! Adam was 4 years old and we needed to get the ball moving on this.We tried to get as much information as possible. I will say that for the first few months we were in denial. I would compare this to the same stages of grief….DABDA (Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance). It was a very tumultuous ride…. We worked over the Summer with a FABULOUS Speech Therapist who sadly has passed along and I am sure many of you know. Linda Mazzola will forever be missed! She worked with Adam over the Summer and she was ultimately the one who introduced us to the Autism Society of Maine. She suggested that we look into the fairly new Day Camp that ASM was offering.
I went to the Office and picked up an Application. This was the first year that started the many many years that Adam would attend Camp Summit. He attended as a Camper for 10 years and then he was graciously offered the opportunity to be a Junior Counselor (as he had reached the cut-off age to remain a Camper). He was a little nervous and apprehensive about this but he tried it and really enjoyed the experience. He has been a Junior Counselor for the past two Summers.
Adam’s response on how he felt about being a junior councilor: “Strange, but fulfilling. To go from a tiny little kid to being a leader to other little kids”.
Adam’s response to attending camp summit for the first time: “I don’t remember to much to be honest, apparently I had a great time – I was 4 years old”.
Camp Summit has been such an important part of not only Adam’s life but for our entire family as well. We have developed many friendships with some of the Counselors and Staff (Shout out to Miss Hattie and Miss Cathy and Mr. Joel!!) When speaking with Mr. Joel (King), he had made Adam aware of the classes at UMF which piqued Adam’s interest. We are planning on a visit to give him a look around and see if he might like to attend.
Adam’s response to how did attending camp help you: “I got more comfortable being me and adjusting to my autism”.
In closing, I cannot recommend the Autism Society of Maine and Camp Summit highly enough! They are an excellent resource and everyone there that I have encountered is so friendly and helpful. Without the guidance and assistance from them, Adam would not have been afforded the many experiences he otherwise would not have had. Thank you to all of you.
by Sue King and Adam King
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