Written by Summer Intern, Marie Dohm
This week was the first REC camp of the summer. I never expected to love it so much. I was paired with a 10-year-old boy with autism. The week was certainly not without its challenges, but my heart was melted by this amazing boy. The boy I worked with recited “happy scripts” such as lines from his favorite TV shows (Elmo/Sesame Street) when he was happy or excited, and negative scripts like “microphone” when he was unhappy. Every morning, he would come in reciting his happy scripts and would repeat them the entire way to the activity we were doing, because he was so excited. Then, when we would begin an activity that he really loved, such as going down the water slide, whitewater rafting, or horseback riding, it was obvious that his excitement level increased because he would change to an even happier script. I began to learn which scripts stood for which level of excitements, and which were negative scripts.
This week, I did a lot of learning. I learned how important schedules are to individuals with autism. I learned to use short phrases when speaking, as well as provide choices such as “apple or orange?” rather than “what would you like as a snack?” because this individual often had a hard time with open-ended questions with so many options for answers. I struggled getting him to get out of the water just about every time because he just loved it so much. I found that giving him warnings starting at 30 minutes, 20 minutes, 10 minutes, 5 minutes, and a countdown to the time he is to exit the pool really helped. I also was able to stay very patient because the happy moments made the difficult moments worth it. Seeing how excited and happy he was during enjoyable activities was one of the best moments of my life. He also brightened the days of the other participants and interns with his great attitude, hugs, and displays of pure joy during many of the activities. He really melted my heart, and I couldn’t have asked for a better week.