If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you know that Reece is an artist. She loves to draw, paint, and create. She gets this from her older sister, without a doubt. It's also a gift that God has given her. Since I'm not at all artistic, I try to nurture this gift as well as I can, but it's not easy. I try the best I can to find outlets and fun classes for their artistic gifts, but it is trickier for Reece. For several years, Riley went to a wonderful art camp through the local United Methodist Church. In this 4.5 hour day camp, they learned about the world of art through God's perspective. They learned new techniques, and they also learned about artists. It was great!
But it wasn't a good fit for Reece. First, it was held outdoors at the UMC campground, right next to a 2-lane highway. Reece has a tendency to wander still, though it's not so bad as it used to be, it would make me nervous for her to be at a camp so near a busy road. Second, Reece has issues with bugs. If there were bugs flying around, and if they came near to her, she would have a meltdown. And last, she still has those random meltdowns in group situations that makes it a challenge for her to participate successfully.
Last year, I was thrilled when the local autism support group offered an art camp. I signed Reece up right away. She had a couple of rough days at the beginning, as she usually does. And she lamented the lack of girls that is always a problem with autism-specific activities. But she had a good time overall, and even made the cover of the local newspaper when they did a feature on the camp.
This year I signed her up again, without fully considering the changes she has undergone with regards to her development. She was eager to attend camp, too, which pleased me. The first day went poorly. This year's camp was in a new location, and though I knew I had prepared her in advance for that prospect, she was not prepared inside. This year her teachers were familiar with her from last year, so we didn't get the comments about homeschooling again, which was nice. She was upset when I picked her up... complaining about the lack of "real art" that she was doing. She cried that she wanted to learn how to make her art realistic, and nobody would tell her how.
In her bag, there was a note that the next day would be "water play" and we were to send a swim suit, towel, etc. This was disappointing. I remembered that last year they had water play, but if I remembered correctly it was only one day. Then when I dropped her off on Tuesday, the teacher also said that the therapy dogs were coming. So during the 4 hours, they would have water play, therapy dogs, snack, lunch - not much time for art, huh? When I picked up my happy girl on Tuesday, she told me they had done "free draw" (crayons and paper).
Wednesday she was eager to go to camp again. It was another water play day. And when I picked up my happy girl, she told me that they were supposed to make bag puppets but that she didn't want to do that so they let her do "free draw" again.
Thursday repeated the same thing. My very happy girl was disappointed that camp was over but was excited to show me her art (and yes, they had water play again!). I was very disappointed to see 3 projects in her bag, all of which were more appropriate for a 2-3 year old preschool class, not a class for middle elementary aged children. Now this might have been ideal for a classroom full of children with high-functioning autism, but not not so much for mine who has a very artistic mind. I mean, the same child who chose to imitate Monet's Japanese Bridge with Water Lilies for the art exhibit brought home a paper plate lion head with drawn-on eyes, and glued strips of paper for the mane!! It was ridiculous! I spent $150 for 4 days of that???
Yet again, I can't find a working solution for my child with autism. What I need is a real art class/camp that will accept an 8 year old child who has difficulty in group settings, but who has a real passion for authentic art. She is highly capable! One of her favorite things to do is to take our current art study picture and copy it using crayons or colored pencils. She showed her latest one to my mother yesterday when she came to visit and she told her, "I included lots of the details!"
Next year, when she's 9, I'm going to see if I can get her into the art camp through the UMC church. It's no longer at the campground, rather it's in the church building now. And they are very accommodating of her needs during their VBS program. Reece has experienced such growth this year, perhaps next summer will find her able to manage group activities much more easily? Also, I could pay Riley to attend the camp with her as a shadow if she needs it. Even if I paid her $50, the camp costs $50 for five 4.5 hour days, so I'm still looking at $50 less than the art camp through the autism support group.
It's so frustrating when your kids don't fit in anywhere. :(