On Going to Camp with Asperger’s | Part 2

This blog was written by guest blogger and Camp Akeela alumna, Lara Lewis. We are so grateful to Lara for contributing this article!

 

You can view Lara’s blog here https://awetisticwriting.wordpress.com/

I attended Camp Akeela for three years, which is a large amount of time to compress into so many words. So for part 2, I wanted to write a sort of “Greatest Hits” summary – my favorite parts about being at camp, but also the parts that helped me grow in ways I didn’t expect, working my way up to the best of the best. To start off: chores.

I hear you on the other side of the screen. “Chores? How is that fun?” The chores themselves weren’t always. We were our own clean up crew; everything from sweeping to trash. The reason I list it is what I gained from it; namely that I actually learned how to do those things, with everyone’s responsibilities shifting regularly. It’s a skill you don’t realize you need until the moment you need it. Speaking as somebody who’s lived in a dorm by herself, you will need it.

Next on the list is a tie of two places – the Art Barn and the library. The library was a little uphill cabin full of books waiting to be cracked open, which was something I adored, and the Art Barn was basically a craft studio full of supplies for young artists, and art was something else I adored. It wasn’t just my luck, though; there seemed to be something for everybody, from sports to swimming to anything else you could expect a camp to have. I still have the little sun-catcher I made one year – it’s hanging in the window!

The best I saved for last – the community. I know, that’s cheesy, but it’s true. I was among my own; you don’t realize just how much you need people like you, who know how strange your experience can be, until you’ve found them. I was surrounded by other kids with sensory issues, with ticks and quirks, with passions like mine. There’s something valuable to be had in a space where you can find people like you. It taught me something I think every kid deserves to know: You are not alone.

For those who missed Part 1 Click here.


Teens and Technology

I just finished reading two articles about the impact of smartphones on our emotional wellbeing and our intelligence. Neither article was uplifting. The bottom line is that our constant use of our phones has caused us to feel more depressed, to sleep less, to interact with others less and to be more distracted. All of these factors are even more intense for teens who are using phones these days as a way to interact with peers.

An article in the Atlantic (https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/09/has-the-smartphone-destroyed-a-generation/534198/) highlights how much things have changed for teens since most parents were going through middle school and high school. The author reminds those of us who are GenXers of an adolescence marked by events like rushing to get our drivers licenses, an eagerness to have time with friends away from parents and dating. Teens now are much more likely to spend time alone in their rooms connecting with peers using social media. They use Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat. None of this is inherently bad – in fact, teens these days feel lucky that they don’t have to leave home to be with friends. The problem is that, although they are connected to peers, the author notes that teens report feeling “alone and distressed”. Teens report that they struggle to interact in person after being so used to screen interactions.

Most notable to me was the author’s findings that teens feel MORE left out these days. It’s obvious when a teen is not invited to a party when everyone on social media is posting photos of parties or gatherings from which they have been excluded. Girls, in particular, are masterful cyberbullies and it seems that teens feel more at liberty to be unkind when they don’t have to look their victim in the eyes. For young adults who are struggling socially, for those who have trouble navigating the complicated social world, who are feeling left out and different, social media is even more troublesome.

The author suggests that, although very difficult, parents should work hard to limit time teens spend on social media. (The other article I read in the WSJ – https://www.wsj.com/articles/how-smartphones-hijack-our-minds-1507307811, also suggests that even having a phone NEAR us decreases our ability to focus.) The more we can encourage young adults to spend time face-to-face with one another, participating in activities that DON’T involve screens, the more likely they will be to feel less depressed, to sleep better and to feel less alone. Camp seems like a great opportunity to practice this. Taking a break for a few weeks from screens can literally be life-changing.


On Going to Camp with Asperger’s

This blog was written by guest blogger and Camp Akeela alumna, Lara Lewis. We are so grateful to Lara for contributing this article, and look forward to posting Part 2 soon!

You can view Lara’s blog here https://awetisticwriting.wordpress.com/

On Going to Camp with Asperger’s (or My Camp Akeela Experience), Part 1
Lara Lewis

In 2009, I took my first steps into the world of Camp Akeela. It’s a Sleep-Away camp, but it was founded with “quirky” campers in mind – primarily those with social and learning disorders. I remember a large open field with two rows of cabins, one on either side, a big mess hall and a small sports field, a nature walk, a barn, and a lake.

I also remember being scared out of my mind. I had gone to a camp away from home the year before, and it had been a testing and tiring experience. The difference was that place was for kids in general – this was a place for kids like me.

I had never been around so many kids with conditions like mine. Looking back, I don’t think I’ve ever seen that many people like me in one place since. Sometimes it can be easy to forget there are other people with Asperger’s who are just out living, real people and not symptoms listed in a doctor’s book.

It was not easy to forget when I was at camp.

Being in the outdoors and living in cabins provided a whole host of issues – dirt, lack of temperature control, timed showers (five minutes each, and I’m still able to make that time today), and most of all living with other kids who had as much trouble reading social cues as I did. Communication was both simple and unclear – what was straightforward to me might have been vague to somebody else and vice versa.

But the thing I remember most, eight years later, is that we were experiencing them together. We were all “quirky” and we found a community, and it’s hard not to bond over getting sand in your shorts when you were all at the same fire pit. There’s something special to be had there, realizing you’re all going through the same thing, even if you experience it differently.

Part 2 Coming Soon!


Wisconsin Camp Announcement

From The Directors
Dear Camp Friends,
Throughout our nine unforgettable summers on Miller Pond we have seen so much growth, not only in our campers but in the size of our community, as well. We have watched our camp grow from approximately 40 to almost 120 campers per session. Likewise, the number of Akeela staff members has risen from less than 40 to more than 100. Over the years, we’ve added six new camper cabins, a golf driving range, the Lodge, a dining hall porch, gazebos and so much more. We are excited to announce that in the summer of 2017, our community is going to grow even more, with the opening of another Camp Akeela, in Wisconsin!

Don’t worry, nothing is going to change about the Camp Akeela that we all know and love in Vermont. We are just expanding west so that more boys and girls have an opportunity to grow in a loving and fun-filled summer camp community similar to what we have created together on Miller Pond. Debbie, Eric and Kevin will all continue to spend their summer in Vermont, while Dave and Katie Baker will be the On-Site Directors in Wisconsin.

Akeela Wisconsin will be located on the campus of Lawrence University in Appleton, which is about 40 minutes southwest of Green Bay, two hours north of Milwaukee, and three hours north of Chicago, IL. Despite being on a college campus, our Wisconsin camp is most definitely NOT an academic program! In three 2-week sessions, campers competing grades 3 – 10 will enjoy many of the same activities that our Vermont camp has to offer, including swimming, art, drama, music, cooking, tennis, team sports, LARPing, hiking, trips, and nature exploration. All of the camp traditions we have grown to love in Vermont – evening meeting, campfires, bunk songs & plaques, and special event days – will be equally integral to the experience at our new camp. We are going to bring as much of the magic of Vermont as we can to Wisconsin to create yet another incredible, life-changing summer experience for campers and staff!

We are so excited about this new adventure and invite you to follow all of its progress at the camp website, campakeela.com.

Fondly,

Debbie & Eric