We just had the best 5 days at Camp Clayton. Each Summer and June holidays Family Based Care run a school holiday camp for families who have a child with a disability. This time our family was asked if we would like to go along with 5 other families. Aaron actually wasn't too keen on going, but I kept trying to tell him that it would be great to go away and not worry about anything for 5 days. When Aaron doesn't know people very well he doesn't feel comfortable and was dreading having to spend time with other families that he didn't know. By the end of the second night he had totally changed his mind about camp and was having a great time.
Each family had a two bedroom unit with an ensuite. FBC hired out a separate lodge at camp which was right next to the beach.
At night you could hear the waves on the beach. It was very peaceful and except for Noah waking during the night, I slept really well as it was so dark and quiet.
There was a good mix of families. There were two families who each had a child with Downs Sydrome, one family had an girl with a mild intellectual disability, another little girl had Atypical Retts Syndrome, and another family that we already knew a little bit, has two children who are severely mentally and physically disabled and are in wheelchairs. They don't have a diagnosis and they may actually name their condition after their last name as they can not find any other children in the world who have the same characteristics as them.
The boy with Downs Syndrome was so funny and after a day or two would come over and sit really close to me and would get my attention by poking out his tongue. When I would poke my tongue back out at him he would crack up laughing. Often I would be standing there and all of a sudden he would come over to me and put his arm around me and give me a big kiss on the cheek.
It was great for all the kids to spend time with other kids who have siblings with disabilities. All the kids got along so well. There were a couple of older boys who are in High School who were so nice to the boys. Everyday Harri would find them and say 'hello again! Do you want to play cricket?' and they were so nice and would have a hit with him. A lot of the kids free time was spend jumping on the trampoline together, or playing on the obstacle course or at the maze. Harri kept saying everyone was his friend.
Harri really liked a little girl called Steph. She was very cute and one day when she walked past our room he said 'she's my friend - she's beautiful!'.
The best thing for me (and all of the adults!) was the food! We were fed soooooo much. It seemed liked we had just finished one meal when it was time for another. The food was so good. For breakfast we had a choice of lots of different cereals, plus toast, juice and hot drinks. Harri and Jay loved being able to go up and choose whatever they wanted. Every night when we would put Harri to bed he would say 'in the morning we will go and get our brekky!' as he was hanging out for it.
Not long after breakfast the kitchen would send over morning tea - it was always something that they had freshly made - muffins, cream cake, biscuits, fresh fruit platters, slices etc. Then not long after that we would all have to go back over to the dining room for lunch. Lunches were chicken burgers and salad, wraps and salad, pizza chips and salad, and today they even packed a picnic lunch for us all to take home. Then afternoon tea was usually similar to morning tea and then for tea it was always hot vegies with different things such as lasagna, cottage pie, chicken schnitzel, sweet and sour chicken, beef curry etc. After tea we were also given dessert. People started to ask for half serves, but our plates were always piled high! They would even send over supper each night.
All the Mum's were saying today how hard it was going to be to go back home and to have to cook again. The boys thought they were in heaven and I was too, as I didn't have to cook any of it! The boys have been so spoilt and now Harri is asking for 'hot milo's and cake' all the time!
The funniest thing at meal time was watching the youth groups who were also staying at camp. We would only see them at meal times and they would all stand up and doing a funny little chant and clap their hands and bang the table to say 'grace' on the food. Jay thought it was hilarious and whenever they would come in he would get ready to hear what chant they were going to do.
Right outside the dining room was a little playground, so the boys would gobble down their meal so they could go outside and play while all the adults sat around eating and talking.
After tea each night we would all head over to the gym and also the games room, which had eight ball, table tennis etc.
Every morning after breakfast we would have a planned activity. The first morning was the 'Giant Swing'. You were harnessed in and then the whole group would pull you up as high as you wanted to go.
Once you were where you wanted to be you would have to pull a little rip chord which would release the swing and you would free fall for a bit, before the rope would catch you. You would then swing back and forth for a while. It was really high and looked very scary to me! Jay shocked us and was one of the first to get on it! He thought it was great.
The second morning it was the flying fox. Jay surprised us once again and was the first to get on it!
\Because I am pregnant I couldn't really go on anything, but it was heaps of fun just watching everyone's reactions as they tried different activities. A little girl with downs syndrome went on the flying fox and was so funny. Her Nan was more nervous about it than she was and she kept wanting to get back on and keep having turns. In the end her Nan had to tell her she had enough.
The third day we had the 'high ropes course'. It was only for kids in grade 7 or above, and adults. Jay was very disappointed he didn't get to have a go, but I doubt he would have gotten up in the end as it was very high.
Other activities we did was archery and the BMX track. Harri and Jay were so excited to have a go at archery. All the Dad's all of a sudden became very competitive during the archery.
During free time everyone would usually head down to the beach together. We were so lucky that we had great weather all week.
Nicki, Maddi and little Alex came to visit one afternoon. It was great to see them and to show them around and tell them about all the fun things we had been doing.
One day on the way up to the dining room there was a snake right on the road that we were walking on. I was the 'lucky' one to see it and be about a metre away from it. I screamed and quickly ran in the opposite direction - not even thinking about the poor boy (who has Downs Sydrome) that was next to me! I just left him standing right there next to it! Lucky Aaron was also there and not as panicked as me, and grabbed him and moved him in the other direction.
Lucky the boys Dad is a farmer and was right behind us. He killed it with a huge piece of wood and threw it in the bush. On the way back from lunch we went to find it in the bush so we could check it out more.
Aaron was acting like an idiot and picked it up going 'crikey it's a beauty! Just look at that beautiful skin' and was acting like he was wrestling it. All the kids thought it was great and wanted to all have a turn of touching it and picking it up.
Jay cracked us up as a bit of blood dripped of it onto his foot and freaked out and ran away screaming 'I've got poison on me!' He ran straight to the outdoor shower and put his foot under.
Noah was really happy until the second last day and then the yelling started up again. We still aren't really sure what is making him so irritable, but have been to see his Dr today and are going to fiddle around with a few meds. Hopefully we can keep that smile on his face for longer this time.
Most nights were spent playing board games, sitting around chatting (and eating) and lots of people would go for walks along the beach. There were always 3 or 4 support workers to help with the kids so it was very relaxing for everyone. It was actually sad to leave. All the families got to know each other really well and after a day or two Aaron really came 'out of his shell'! It was funny as all the adults said yesterday that they wanted to 'old, quiet Aaron to come back' as he was his usual self joking and stirring everyone. They all kept commenting on how he had really come out of his shell and I told them that they now knew the 'real' Aaron. Even Aaron didn't want to leave as he was having so much fun. Everyone was exchanging phone numbers and addresses when we were leaving It was nice to spend time with other families in similar situations and to just be able to enjoy some time having fun together and to relax. We are lucky that Family Based Care run such a great program, and we are looking forward to catching up with the other families during the Easter School Holiday Program.