Saturday, August 22, 2009

Silver Linings, Part 2

Last night, Jonah, Erika, Hilary and I went to the end-of-summer "prom" at Camp Joy, the camp for developmentally disabled children and adults that Jonah went to for the three weeks he didn't have summer school. We got there a little late, and the party was already underway, but our arrival caused the kind of stir I would previously have attributed to celebrities on the Brangelina level. For once, it wasn't about Erika's beautiful red hair, or Hilary's radiant smile - it was all about Jonah. The campers and the counselors wanted to spin with him to the Macarena, or his new, second-favorite song, the YMCA. They wanted to hug him, tickle him, and bring him cake. I almost cried, I was so touched by the affection everyone clearly had for him.

Many well-meaning friends, acquaintances, and even strangers have complimented me over the years about how well Andy and I have dealt with Jonah's autism, and I've always chafed under their praise. We adapted, as all parents do - despite the many protestations I've heard: "I could never handle it." But the real admiration should be showered on those who choose to work with these difficult children. I can't tell you how many amazing people I've met since Jonah was diagnosed - those with incredible patience, perseverance, and love, love, love for kids who - believe me - aren't always easy to love. I could name them, but I'd be afraid of leaving someone out.

I took this picture of Jonah and Sam, a Camp Joy counselor, last night. Sam is off to his freshman year of college this year, to study special education and psychology, but another counselor told me that Sam started volunteering at the camp when he was about ten years old. Ten years old! If I had never had a child with a disability, I would never have met Sam and all the others like him, people whose passion never fails to sustain and inspire me. It's not a hermit crab, but this silver lining is infinitely more precious.


Anonymous said...

We have had the same experience. Not every teacher and therapist have been great but more than not. When Max was two his placement failed. We were totally overwhelmed b/c we were so new at dealing with his needs. All of these therapists came to his aid and spent hours and hours helping us find a wonderful placement for him that I believe greatly contributed to his success. I still remember my husband overcome with emotion that we had all these people who loved him so much. And, his special ed pre-K teacher - I've never had a teacher like that in my life.
Gail C.

Ginny F. said...

I only just saw this blog for the first time today. This is Sam's mom. He has talked about Jonah before as he shares many of his adventures from camp. You are blessed with a special little boy as am I. Children who are loved are all special--each in there own way. How lucky our boys are to have met each other. Hopefully they will have many more fun filled camp days.