Slow Growth is Still Growth: Social / Emotional Growth of a teen on the Autism Spectrum
Updated: Oct 25
Imagine 60 high school students.
Now add sleeping in tents in a campground by the beach for a week.
The sight? The sound? The smell?
It sounds like the start of a horror movie.
But it was quite the opposite.
Our church puts on a fantastic Beach Camp experience for the high school students.Three meals a day. Snacks. Worship time. Snacks. Friendship development. Snacks. A variety of organized and free time activities. Snacks. Adults who feed into and lead the students. Snacks.
This was Year Two of Thomas at Beach Camp. Like last year, I tent camped on the opposite side of the campground. I still wanted to provide shadowy support to the adults, students and Thomas as needed. Our hope was that everyone, not just Thomas, would benefit from having him there. But I also wanted to step back even more.
If I’m there, I tend to jump in and solve problems, smooth situations and not give Thomas the chance to problem solve.
Anyone else guilty of this?
So I hid in the tent, took long walks, drove around town. It would have been a vacation if not for the “ sleeping in tents in a campground by the beach for a week” part.
Removing myself from more daily activities left me with less visual data than last year.
But I did observe growth, and so did others.
Last year students would just walk by Thomas.
This year, they said, “Hi Thomas” and waited for him to reply.
And he did!
Last year Thomas played Ladder Ball ALL THE TIME and usually alone.
This year he played Ladder Ball ALL THE TIME but when someone asked to play, he said “No” (insert laughing emoji) but would let other play while he watched.
Last year Thomas would only join in the prayer circle when I gave him the “mom look”.
This year, he joined in. He held hands, He said, “Amen”. It was one big circle of high school students.
And worship time? I’ll share that next week.
For some parents, all those things might sound small. But if you’ve ever felt like you didn’t fit in, maybe you can understand.
When you didn’t fit in and someone gave you a smile.
When you didn’t fit in and someone said your name.
When you didn’t fit in and someone touched your hand.
These may seem small but small growth is still growth.
If I had not stepped back, had not sent Thomas, had let him hid in the safety of home, there would be no growth.
No growth for him.
No growth for the other students.
No growth for the adults.
No growth for me.
God calls us to shine His Light.
Small bits of glowing light will still light up a room.
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.”