My family and I recently attended the Gilmont Circle of Friends camp for the first time. I can only describe this weekend and experience as life changing in the most positive and impactful way. I have two sons, one just turned 10 and has autism and the other is neurotypical and 7 years old. This is the first time that our entire family has ever gone on a trip or an outing where all of us were able to relax and have fun.
Usually one parent is “on alert” for needs or redirection. It is rare to be able to focus completely on a conversation. This camp is a beautiful safe space where I don’t have to worry that my son gets too close to peoples’ faces or gets excited and is loud and jumping around. He can be his vibrant unfiltered self and do all the things a neurotypical kid would do at camp like canoe, swim, and zip line- which he did and loved! I trusted the camp staff (buddies) with my kids more than I trust some of my family members, they were wonderful and even sent us pictures of our boys throughout the day.
Most of the time if we asked the boys if they wanted to do something with us the answer was no- they wanted to do it with their buddy. My husband and I in turn were able to have uninterrupted conversations with other adults- to us this is a rare pleasure. We were able to discuss challenges and victories and worship with people that get our day to day life like few families do.
It was amazing, so beyond what I could have ever hoped or expected and I cannot thank you enough. My boys cried when we had to leave and still miss their “best friend” they made at camp. It still makes me tear up to think of what a wonderful experience it was for them and my entire family and we are all so excited to come back again. This camp gave us an opportunity to put aside our struggles and embrace our differences, it was a reminder that we are wonderfully and fearfully made.