Another summer, another camp form to fill out. Every year I feel the same feelings churn up, an unsettling sensation of annoyance mixed with terror.
Having a “twice-exceptional child” often means trying to find a line between acknowledging differences and not letting diagnosis be the final say on what is expected. This means that when the question gets asked, “Are there any medical issues which require special attention” it’s like hitting an invisible wall at a fast clip. I’m not quite running, but moving quickly because that’s the only way to keep up with my kid, you might think, I knew the wall was up there somewhere but I sure as hell didn’t have time to slow down and look for it.
I figured I’d run into it eventually.
I’m sending Ducky to what looks like a dream summer program. (At least for STEM oriented children!) I was filling out the requisite “Health and Safety” form and there it was: The Question.
Require special attention….
I started to write… and couldn’t stop. This is the letter I wish I’d sent to every teacher, instructor, mentor, camp leader, and tutor.
I’ve been asked to provide you with information about my son as to whether or not he requires any special attention. I have trouble with this request because we don’t focus on his diagnosis, we focus on capabilities. Rather than labelling, I would implore with you to meet him first. 99% of all his teachers, tutors, & mentors have said, “I know you said he’s [__]. But he sure doesn’t seem like [___]” However, Murphy’s law being what it is, the one time I sent him someplace and decided not to mention it, there were problems. So, I’ll make you a deal. I’ll tell you what’s up with my kid and you Presume Competence. Good? Good.
Ducky is very excitable. The more he loves something the more verbal he becomes. He will be your chatterbox, excited, and hyper. He can also keep easily overwhelmed. This is due his being so-well-integrated-it-might-as-well-be-called ‘stealth mode’ autistic. Loud noises, too much combined stimuli, and feelings that come up when he doesn’t grasp a concept right away can be a problem. The key to this is redirection, patience, & not clamping down on his behavior. Since this is a techie based camp I figure he’s going to be fine. But again, I fear if I don’t say anything something might happen.
Ducky can also get anxious. What about? Looking or acting “different.” A huge part of why I don’t think you’re going to notice anything is because he doesn’t want you to. Or anyone else for that matter. He downright white-knuckles through situations when trying to fit in. That can lead to his getting a “stomach ache” which is how his anxiety usually manifests. Or he comes home to me and has a meltdown in a safe space so he can go face people the next day. Takes a lot of will to make it that long. He’s strong that way.
Okay, the big bad scary words now: He is on medication for epilepsy & bi-polar. He always has a week’s supply on him in case of some sort of major disaster and they are given in the evenings. Since he is only doing day and not overnight camp, the medications will not be anyone’s responsibility outside of our family. These are managed health issues that I mention only because I feel I have to. Just in case.
I hate writing letters like this. It makes my fantastic kid sound like a walking ball of “problems” and he really isn’t. Please don’t look for these things. Look for his smarts, his sense of humor, his outlook on life, his incredible observational skills, and his general coolness. He loves Doctor Who, My Little Pony, Minecraft, and nearly every vlogger on YouTube who screams profanities while playing various games. (He will NOT emulate them in your space, I promise. He doesn’t cuss in spite of having been given permission to do so. Probably because I do. Like a sailor. One in the home is enough.)
I’ve written a small novel as I’m often wont to do. I always say, “Why use one word when you can make twenty sound so freakin’ cool?”
I hope you will take this in the spirit it’s intended of a sort of begrudging, “I know I should tell you all this but it’s hard therefore I’m going to try to make it interesting and humorous because hopefully you will really hear me.”
If you have any questions, concerns, or need to find out more about my exceptional, wonderful, and brilliant boy, please feel free to call, text, email, or give me a shoutout. I’ll be at my computer, writing. (It’s kinda what I do.)
I ended up sending in a simple two line paragraph: “Ducky can get overwhelmed easily and might begin to feel anxious. If he complains of a stomach ache, he likely needs a quick break or go talk to the nurse. “
Sometimes it’s easier to not say it all. Or perhaps just less scary.