“Why can’t I go, too?” Sam* said sadly to his mom as they pulled up to Camp Young Judaea. He watched his sister bound from the car to join her friends. The campers were toting their luggage to their bunks, stopping to hug old friends or say hi to new ones.
From the rearview mirror, Barbara* saw the expression on Sam’s face, and it pierced a mother’s heart. For Sam*, a young man with autism, this was another hurtful reminder.
These are the moments many parents dread: recognizing a child’s longing to be included, knowing all too keenly the profound pain of being left out, and wanting desperately to make it better.
For children challenged with physical and developmental disabilities and for those who love them, there is a strong desire to belong, but the obstacles can seem insurmountable.
For Sam*, his silent prayer that day in the car, as he watched his sister go to camp was answered. Sam* stepped out of his car this summer, his whole body exuded happiness. It was the look of a boy who had his dream come true. And his dream did come true. He was going to summer camp. He was given the opportunity to be a part of a diverse, rich community and thrived. Sam*, was an integral member of the camp community, developed friendships, and got to share his camp experience with his sister. He had access to meaningful educational activities, and received the collaborative support to succeed. But for Sam* his moment was when he stepped out of the car with his luggage in hand; he was going to CYJ.
*Name was changed.