I’ve been thinking a lot about something one of our founders, Dr. Matt, talks about in our camp video – about how important it is for kids to “find their tribe.”
I found my tribe growing up and working at summer camp. At the same time, I have strong memories as a camper and counselor at overnight camp with some amazing kids – who simply were not finding their tribe. Looking back, those were kids that likely faced many of the same struggles as Camp Alsing campers –autism, PPD-NOS, ADHD, or simple “quirkiness.” We didn’t have all those names 30 years ago, and as a 17-yr old counselor I certainly was not trained to work with kids who lived with these challenges.
Fast forward to Camp Alsing 2017. On the first night of camp, a camper, a 12-yr old girl, ran up to me and said “This place is amazing…everyone is like me.” Similarly, when I met one of our new campers, his face lit up when I mentioned that there would be other kids at camp who were working on the same skills as he is – in his words: “they’ll be other kids with the same struggles I have!? I’ve never met other kids like me!” They found their tribe.
I have been asked on occasion how our campers “know how to act” if there are no neurotypical kids at Camp Alsing – how would our kids know what they should strive to be like. When we founded camp we wanted a place where our campers were comfortable and confident striving to be their own best selves. Being with kids who “get them” and counselors who help them connect, is when they are most socially confident, and last summer we witnessed them making real connections and powerful memories.
Indeed, the power of a tribe is intense. This weekend we had our Camp Alsing reunion in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, where many members of our tribe (alas not everyone could come together from such far distances) got together to laugh, connect and know they are among friends.