Dying/broken/forgiven.... now I begin

Born: 17-06-56....gemini.... monkey
re-born: 3-09-80
born again\found: 14-04-08
other notable dates: 10-03-68; 03-09-87; 23-03-96;
1-05-98; 31-01-02; 5-04-04

Interests: movement, stressed/transgressive embodiment, lived experience (body\space\time\relation)
expression ( word, dance, text, image, story, music, poetics)
learning, yielding......

Hopes for the blog:
offer up the wild intersectedness of lived experience and engage others in creative, expressive, perhaps irreverant, hopefully playful, and respectful encounters....
enact kindness
create moments of pause for disclosure, discovery, stillness

Saturday, September 21, 2013

"Help, help.... this woman is not my mother".... and other tales from Autism camp

Two weeks have passed since the conclusion of my 17th annual summer movement camp for kids, teens and young adults with ASD ( Autism Spectrum disorder). Week one had 55 campers and week two had 60 campers of various ages and manifestations of this remarkable way of being in the world. I also had 40 (mostly) wonderful students and another dozen returning veterans who I affectionately call " Angels" who help out the wonderful students in their efforts to work with the campers. 
Here is the first of a series of  vignettes that tell a little bit of what it is like to be at my camp.....

Vignette 1 This woman is not my mother.....

Igor is 8 years old. So far this summer he has been kicked out of every camp in the province by day two of camp because of his abusive language and manner with staff and other campers,  and his overall unlike-ability. In my opinion, not liking a kid is no reason to deprive him of a camp experience and most of the kids I work with do not get to have many camp experiences.  He is a bit hard to take.... arrogant, brilliant, verbally skilled, disdainful of other campers who are more severe than he is ( he calls them "retards" among other less complimentary terms) and also of the students who work with him ( he calls them whores and wenches and bitches and stupid and pathetic.... blah blah.... ) and he is profane. Of course, we cannot react to any of this because it only feeds the fire of the attention seeking. On the rare occasions when he is not finding fault and being the general manager of the universe, he can be charming and cute. Kinda like an 8 year old boy with a great imagination and sense of wonder and curiosity about the world. This is what we hang onto for motivation. I tell my students NEVER to be alone with their kid. Always have another student and camper with you. Travel in 4's. Right. What would the old teacher know, anyway??
So, we go on Wednesday to a very cool Safari place with animals and rides and playgrounds and a HUGE splash pad... an all around fun day. It is crowded, lots people from the surrounding area go to this place, not only camps like mine. So, Igor and his student, let's call her Treasure, are with another student and child, let's call them Dimitri ( the child) and Cherish ( the student). Cherish has to take Dimitri to the bathroom. Treasure decides to stay where she is with Igor. Big crowded open area with a nice playground. What could go wrong?? I suspect that Igor had this little action plan brewing all day, and was just waiting for his moment. And now, here it is.... his moment. He yells in a loud and piercingly clear voice: "Help help .... this woman is not my mother or my guardian.... somebody please knock her out... help help...."
Treasure is immobilized. She tells me later that she had no idea about what she could do.... if she ushers him off to the side she looks like the abductor he claims she is. If she steps slightly away from him, she looks like she has been caught in the act. She stands helplessly by, hoping that Igor will not attempt an escape, until Cherish and Dimitri return from the bathroom ( Dimitri has more of a stereotypical "look" of a child who has some atypical stuff going on....) and the horrified onlookers put two and two together ( literally) and go back to their regular being there activities. I glare at Igor. He shrugs and gives me the " can't blame a guy for trying to have a little fun" swagger. I walk until I am  close enough to touch him, but do not make any contact. I hover over him for a moment and then crouch down so I am at eye level. "Not funny," I say in a very cold, very soft voice. And I stand and walk away.
Igor's mom is not as upset as I think she ought to be. I wonder about how his strategizing is received in other contexts. But there is not much I can do about that.
In the debrief after all the campers have gone,  the students have a renewed understanding about not being alone with their camper. And we do some brainstorming about what to do in a situation like that.
It could have been worse.  At a lot of levels, it is funny, absurd, wicked..... and we can appreciate that.
At a lot of levels it is sad and poignant .... and we can appreciate that more.
The amazing gifts of experiential learning.

more vignettes to come. Hope you enjoy....

Saturday, September 7, 2013

September 3, 1980

Happy Birthday to my son. 33 on on September 3, 2013. Lots of threes.
I sent off a goodie package in the mail, of course. Never miss an opportunity for sweet absurdity. Good thing he has the temperament for it!! And ya have to love a man who uses the word " adorable" to describe a silly gift....
Feeling the love and all the gifts it brings.