Summer finally made an appearance in Sacramento and we decided to take a weekend camping trip up to Scott’s Flat Lake in Nevada City. I didn’t think much about it really. Mateo had been camping since he was a baby. My family and I camped every year growing up and we try to make an effort to go at least once during the summer. Last year though we didn’t make it- there was too much going on during the summer my grandfather got sick and passed away and Mateo started ABA therapy all at the same time.
But Mateo has always been easy going. We could take him anywhere and he was a happy camper. Routine and schedule has never really been a part of our lives until this last year. We noticed how routine really helps Mateo feel comfortable and succeed at school and in his home program. And so often I think I become so used to how well he’s doing- I don’t realize that upsetting his routine would be difficult for him.
So we took off camping. Unloaded the car, set up our camp. We went with 10 adults and 9 kids. Mateo was familiar with some of the people there, but not everyone. At first things seemed to be fine- he was enjoying playing in the tent and running around the camp.
But then Teo was sounding a little upset and I heard Reuben say- “he’s taking a break in the car.”
“A break in the car?”, “You put him in the car?” I asked concerned. Then Reuben explained he put himself in the car. He wanted to be someone familiar and safe.
Oh, I went to talk to him and ask him if he wanted to sit on my lap- or a hug.
“No Thanks!” he replied.
I continued to ask if he wanted to go in the tent, or a walk with me.
I told him to call me when he wanted out, he wanted me to strap him into his car seat. I was concerned that all he wanted to do was go home. But he didn’t – he just wanted to feel secure, familiar, at ease.
Wow- I am amazed by him. That he can self-regulate and find somewhere that makes him safe and secure. And then he was able to join the fun again.
He was ok, but for me it was tough. Hard to see him finding it hard to fit in. Hard to see him want to strap himself into the car instead of heading off to play with the other kids. And the hardest part was that I couldn’t give him a hug or comfort him myself.
But I am so proud of him for knowing what he needs to make himself feel good. Throughout the weekend when he felt overwhelmed he would just get in the car and call me or Reuben over to buckle him in. As the weekend went on, he needed fewer and fewer breaks in the car.
By the last day, he was feeling a lot better. It made me realize that we definitely need to take him camping and on more outings during the year. He gets so caught up in his familiar routine, I think it’s really good to help him adapt to more situations.