Day 57: Understanding Jack

“Jack” is an 8 year old boy diagnosed with severe autism.  He is non-verbal, and while he is toilet trained, he is prone to having accidents when in a new place or with new people.  Just 3 weeks before camp started, he had come from out of state to live with a single father who had recently been awarded custody.  Jack’s father was a construction worker and was not very familiar with Jack’s needs.  Jack had a very difficult time becoming familiar with the people, place and routine of camp.

In his first days of the summer, Jack frequently attempted to run from the counselors, bit himself and others, and had accidents. His father was frequently called from work to pick Jack up due to behavioral outbursts and/or accidents.  But as time progressed, a committed staff patiently taught Jack the routine, and established a regular toileting schedule.  They also became familiar with Jack’s personal distress signals, and were able to recognize when he was uncomfortable or unhappy.  Jack made remarkable progress, and within weeks, was attending the full week without need for his father to leave work.

At parent’s day, Jack’s father shared that he was on the verge of placing Jack in a group home because he felt unable to care for Jack, and because his employment was at risk due to the ’emergency’ pick ups.  He could not fathom how he would provide long term care for his son.  But seeing the remarkable progress his son made just in the five weeks of camp gave him hope.  But he was especially pleased with the positive attitude and caring approach that the staff took with his son.  He stated that he felt for the first time like he didn’t have to apologize for his son because the staff truly understood Jack’s autism.

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