Monday, June 23, 2014

Families In Action Retreat

This weekend we had the opportunity to participate in something really awesome. It was the Families in Action Retreat put on by The Arc for families of kids with developmental/ intellectual disabilities. We weren't really sure what to expect, but we are so glad we went!

There were so many wonderful things about this event. Here is the view out the window of the (first) room where we stayed. This is at the YMCA in Estes Park, Colorado. The mountains set the backdrop for the entire weekend. What a beautiful place!

We got to meet so many amazing families from different backgrounds! There was a woman who has raised her two autistic sons who now live on their own and are in their sixties... There was a mom who spoke alongside a daughter who had had severe disabilities when she was younger but had gotten through them and was even volunteering in the child care... One family had adopted a son who they later found out had severe disabilities and they shared their story of hope with us... There was one family who mother, father, and child all had autism and they told how this retreat gave them hope and a new beginning... just to list a few.

A great thing about this retreat is that everyone was so accepting. And there were so many awesome kids there! All kinds of kids! Everything from severely disabled to kids with no disabilities at all. And they all played together, and you couldn't really tell who was who most of the time. Everyone was included, and no one was left out. There were no "oddball" kids, no teasing, no bullying.

There were a lot of wonderful talks, and it was great meeting all those families, and the food was good too, but the real highlight for me was the child care. The volunteers were awesome accepting people who were willing to do whatever it took to help those kids. Kids had assigned buddies who were dedicated to make it a great time for them. The volunteers were young and old, typical AND disabled, which I thought was really cool! There were so many fun things to do~ bubbles and sidewalk chalk, giant bouncy balls, a sensory room (down time), blocks, books, stuffed animals, blanket tents, parachute games, museum and library, swimming pool and playground, painting and coloring... so kids could really choose what made them feel good.

I was really proud of Rowan for actually going to his "class" in the mornings. That was a first for him. I was so happy for Fynn because I could tell he was having an AWESOME time with his buddies. They really treated him so special. Actually, all of the volunteers treated all of the kids so special.  After living in a world where you're always the naughty kid in the class, this is what these kids really need. That is why this is the highlight of my weekend. This is something I want to take home with me. This is what EVERY kid deserves EVERY day~ to be understood, to be treated like they really matter, to have their needs met...

Here's a pic of Fynn painting a ceramic Tyrannosaurus. He hasn't wanted to paint anything in a long time, but when we picked him up that day, there it was. He also painted a whale piggy bank.

(This is Fynn holding a huge elk antler at the museum. His buddies took a lot of pics. Rowan didn't go with his buddies so much, so less pics.  We didn't take any pics cause there was no time!)

Like I said, everyone was accepted and included. Each kid was known for something. Everyone was special. Fynn became known as the dinosaur kid because he took his stuffed Brachiosaurus with him everywhere.  An older kid was known for wearing a dinosaur hat all the time. One little guy became known as "Elevator Man" because all he wanted to do was ride the elevator up and down. (And that was perfectly fine!) Even Rico became known for his unique shoes :) (Sorry this was the only pic I could find of you!)

It was so wonderful for us parents to let our guard down because we were in a safe environment where we knew no one would judge our parenting skills, no one would judge our kids because of their behavior; we were all in the same boat. One time, during a talk a bunch of kids started yelling right outside the door (I think one of them was actually Fynn) and then a huge round table rolled into the room. And it was no problem! People just laughed. No big deal, anything goes here.

 After the first night at the retreat, when we woke up we found water everywhere. It turned out that a water line in the wall had broke and we had to relocate. Fynn and Rowan called this "The Tidal Wave".  On the last day, before everyone left, Fynn and a friend were sliding down what they called "The Rock Slide". It was just a dirt path on a steep hill that was formed when they slid down it.  When I asked Fynn what his favorite things were that happened this weekend he told me:

1. The Rock Slide
2. The Tidal Wave

So, there you go.

There are so many more wonderful things that were talked about or that happened at the retreat, but I'll stop here. If we acquire any more pics from the retreat we'll post those as well.

Later! ~Beth

Tuesday, June 17, 2014