Today, I am thankful for such wonderful groups like Surfers Healing, Camp Gonnawannagoagin, and the many, many on-line support groups that I/I've belong(ed) to over the last 10years or so since Ashton's diagnosis.
Groups like Surfers Healing and Camp Gonnawannagoagin allow Ashton an opportunity to experience things that a "normal" (for lack of better words) child would, in a loving, engaging, and safe environment.
The surfers and volunteers of Surfers Healing are gentle, gentle souls. You wouldn't expect these macho, sporty guys to be so gentle and kind with these special kids, but wow! Big, ole, amazing teddy bears! We've met a lot of awesome people within the Surfers Healing community, both in real life at the Virginia Beach camps as well as online via their Facebook page(s). Ashton's already looking forward to Surfers Healing Virginia Beach 2012! How COOL is it that he gets to surf with a REAL surfer, not just a family member who can "kinda" surf? The smiles and calmness that he gets to experience is amazing and awe-inspiring. Camp Gonnawannagoagin is a much needed source of respite during the summer months. Ashton gets to go to camp from 9am-3pm every day for 5 days straight. They go swimming every day (pool, beach, water park) and they do one other activity (mini golf, arcades, aquarium, Tae Kwon Do, etc). Each autistic camper is paired up with a typical peer buddy as well as an adult counselor. The social growth Ashton experiences every summer is amazing. The things he gets to do (Ocean Breeze, Tae Kwon Do, etc) are not things that I've done with him, but he LOVES them! It gives him an opportunity to experience camp and social outings, without Mom always having to be there.
The support groups have been numerous over the years. From online support groups to in real-life support groups to our family and friends. But they all serve the same basic purpose. To allow the opportunity for discussion of issues, different coping strategies, the ability to see Autism through another family's eyes, etc. But, they give you the opportunity to vent about the struggles or the opportunity to celebrate the small (or to us, large) victories that other family's that have only neuro-typical children wouldn't otherwise understand.
SO thank you. From me and my family to ALL of you!
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