I was so impressed with how well Gess did at church camp this week. Of course I was her sponsor so I was there to help teach her what to do and help others understand her if she struggled communicating her needs. She seemed to learn the ropes rather quickly and did very well fitting in. Her back is to you in the picture above. She is in the bottom left hand corner. The empty chair next to her was mine. Below is the size of the line she had to wait in to even get to eat.
Since we homeschool church camp is Gess' only real experience in a cafeteria. While I occasionally helped her at the beginning she was good at carrying her own tray, getting her own food and drinks, helping herself to seconds and putting her tray and dishes away. She always ate what she was served and cleaned her plate. With all the activity she had quite the appetite! All in all she seemed to enjoy meal time.
Gess also did fairly well in the worship and Bible study sessions too. Her biggest problem was the volume of the preaching but she doesn't like when our pastor gets loud in our home church either. She literally despises loud conversations and that is a constant struggle for us. I used her favorite recreation activity to motivate her to use more self control when she was frustrated. After missing archery for two days she finally settled down and did not get angry when the teaching was beyond her tolerance level. She was glad to get to shoot arrows again!
The music part of worship was her favorite. Here is a picture of her on the stage as they were singing. She is holding the microphone in the back row. Below that is a video of her helping lead one of the songs.
Many of the leaders were so impressed with Gess. She also spurred conversations among the other kids. I have often said, and still believe, that the best way to raise awareness is to just let other people be around our kids. We don't need to give speeches, change legislation or have any type of major campaign. While those are all very good things to do we need to remember that the best thing is to just let people get to know persons who have Down syndrome. That is how we kill the stereotypes! Once they experience real time with them they will see that they are, to quote the NDSS phrase, "more alike than different."
Now don't get me wrong, there were moments when her differences stood out and some kids tried to take advantage of that. But those moments were few and far between. For the most part Gess was just another kid in the crowd and those are the moments I liked best! She seemed to like them too.