Like most parents of children/teens/adults with ASD, I struggle (sometimes more than Jayden) with planning new opportunities for Jayden. Knowing your child better than anyone else, you hope for the best outcome but, you always have a Plan B, C & D to be prepared for the absolute worst outcome.
As I am sure many of you can relate, we have missed a number of family functions and other opportunities, over the years, due to what type of day Jayden may have been having. Although Jayden may have had a rough time at a party, the zoo, at a store or in the community, we never gave up trying…and that holds true until today. We continuously expose Jayden to familiar and new places, regardless of what the outcome may be. If he had a difficult time today, we take him back and try again.
Continuing to expose Jayden to familiar and new environments/opportunities has opened up many doors for our family to enjoy new things but also, continue to enjoy our very favorite things! Of course, all of this comes with a large amount of planning ahead and don’t forget your Plan A, B, C & D!
On Mother’s Day 2014, I decided to try my luck. Registration would open for the Surfer’s Healing Surf Camp in Ocean City, Maryland. I watched the clock all day to make sure I logged in at the time that they announced registration would be open. This was the ABSOLUTE BEST Mother’s Day gift I could have ever received…in more ways than, at that time, I knew. I instantly received an email back that Jayden was in! I was beyond excited for our boy to have this wonderful opportunity!
For those of you who are not familiar with Surfer’s Healing, in a nutshell, Surfer’s Healing is an organization that holds FREE one day surf camps across the United States, for children/teens/adults with ASD. You can find out more about who they are and what they do by visiting their website http://surfershealing.org/
We chose the Ocean City location, over some others that were closer to us, because it was in August and some others were in September, and we were unsure about how warm it would be by then. So we decided to play it safe and take a chance! I started planning for our trip in May! Typically we do lots of day trips and overnight trips with Jayden, just a few hours away from home or week long camping trips no more than an hour away, just in case. This trip would be roughly 14-16 hours total travel; this would be the furthest we’d ever been from home and in unfamiliar territory. But, we’ve got this!
We booked our hotel, Castle in the Sands, right on the beach where the surf camp would take place, for 3 days, not knowing how Jayden would do. They were very accommodating when I explained to them that we would need a full kitchen because we would be traveling with Jayden’s food, as he is on a special diet and we would absolutely need a bathtub in our room and not just a stand up shower because Jayden is not a fan of showers.
The months leading up to our trip were worrisome, as Jayden increasingly began to struggle with what looked like anxiety & OCD and there were more bad days than good. Many times, I thought about cancelling our trip because of how “all over the place” Jayden suddenly was. BUT, I didn’t! I couldn’t! We’d figure it out (This is where Plan C & D came into play)! We had a plan for every possible scenario we could think up!
Guess what my friends? WE NEVER NEEDED Plans B-D because Jayden did absolutely AMAZING! So much so that we extended our stay, after the 2nd day, for the entire week! From the 7 hour ride there, adjusting to being in a hotel in a city where nothing was familiar, Surfing with the amazing Surfer’s Healing Family, changing hotels in order to extend our trip, to the 8 hour drive home and everything else in between!
Honestly, I’d be lying if I didn’t say I cried like a baby until we were out of Delaware because of how proud I was of Jayden, how amazing our trip was, and how much we absolutely needed to get away. What a beautiful experience and opportunity this was for our family. The Surfer’s Healing Surfer’s and Volunteers were nothing less than amazing. They were so accommodating and so wonderful to us! We hope to take the trip again this year, even if Jayden doesn’t get into to the Surf Camp! The smile on Jayden’s face while he was surfing and the laughter we could hear coming from him while in the water was amazing. It truly was one perfect day! A little piece of my heart stayed in Ocean City.
The moral of the story here is, sometimes the unexpected can be extremely scary for us as parents because we work so hard day in and day out to keep our children comfortable, happy and in their routines that they need and that we need! Each of you know what your own circumstances are and just how much you can push your child, and yourself, out of their comfort zone. If you don’t give things a try, regardless of the fear of the unknown, you’ll never know how an experience with your child could change your life forever, in a good way! This was an experience that I will forever hold close to my heart!