Autism Rock Wall College

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Today we arrived at the Autism Society of Maine’s annual Family Retreat Weekend.  It’s been held at St. Joseph’s College for the past few years (4?), and it’s the highlight of Jake’s calendar.  Unable to fully recite the name of the event, he simply refers to it as Autism Rock Wall College.

It’s a wonderfully inclusive getaway for kids on the autism spectrum and their families.  You know those looks kids like ours (and by ours I mean those on the spectrum) get when they stim in public, flapping their hands and arms, making self-soothing noises, and sometimes melting down under the table?  Not here. That behavior is the norm, not the exception, and the looks aren’t there.  The support is.  The feeling of camaraderie that comes with having fought the same fights as the guy next to you.  Having the same fears, hopes, and frustrations.  Parents have this, but parents of kids with needs have this in spades.

The parents have classes or discussions or social time.  The kids on the spectrum have an over abundance of supervision while they’re assisted through the day’s activities.  The siblings get to do things with other siblings.  Nobody gets too worked up about the “weird brother.”  Everybody has one.  (Sisters too)…

Jake loves getting to eat “autism friendly” food all weekend.  All the tan and bland one kid can stand.  He loves the Olympic sized pool, staying in the college hotel (dorm rooms), and especially the rock wall in the campus center here at St. Joe’s.  It beat him two years ago.  He beat it, though barely and laboriously, last year.  Tonight he conquered it five times.  He’s so proud of himself!

We got here in the late afternoon, and have already unpacked, explored the campus, eaten a wonderful dinner (St. Joe’s really outdoes themselves), spent 90 minutes in the pool, another hour in the gym full of toys, and destroyed the rock wall (5 times!).  As of my writing this at 9:30, Jake is finally settling into his sleeping bag and watching YouTube videos.

He has been a veritable jabber-jaw since we got here.  He hardly ate his dinner!  He’s so excited.  He loves that everything is geared towards his happiness and positive experiences.

Here are a couple of pics we got:

Getting settled into our dorm rooms and connecting everyone to the WiFi.

Getting settled into our dorm rooms and connecting everyone to the WiFi.

We brought Kelsie along this year to help with Respite. She gets to bunk with #2 and #3.

We brought Kelsie along this year to help with Respite. She gets to bunk with #2 and #3.

A rare moment of getting along

A rare moment of getting along

Our annual picture with "Princess Celestia". No clue who this really is, but the kids named her after a My Little Pony character our first year.

Our annual picture with “Princess Celestia”. Obviously not her real name, but the kids re-named her after a My Little Pony character our first year.  Jake posed was unprompted, BTW.

Jake's dinner: 3 chicken fingers, a pile of fries, and a slice of pepperoni pizza.

Jake’s dinner: 3 chicken fingers, a pile of fries, and a slice of pepperoni pizza.

Topped off with a cone of vanilla ice cream that he sought out and scooped himself.

Topped off with a cone of vanilla ice cream that he sought out and scooped himself.

Playing in the gym. Jake VS. Dad!!

Playing in the gym. Jake VS. Dad!!

The wall was no challenge to the kids this year. Gabe and Liv took on the most challenging ascent - and nailed it!

The wall was no challenge to the kids this year. Gabe and Liv took on the most challenging ascent – and nailed it!

See that look in his eyes? Pride.

See that look in his eyes? Pride.

We’ve only just begun.   Stay tuned for Day 2.

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