Moving from one state to another is a challenge for any family, but when your child has disabilities, it complicates the move even more. There are doctors to find, school records to transfer, IEPs to be written. Moving also necessitates leaving behind friends, family, and other important supports.
Soon after arriving in San Antonio, my husband Rick left for 6 weeks of training. I knew no one, and I was alone in a new city. Everyday tasks were complicated, to say the least. A trip to the grocery store required placing Katelyn in a shopping cart, pushing Ryan in a wheelchair and pulling the cart and Katelyn through the store. It was a very hot summer in San Antonio (is there any other kind?) and the physical exertion and heat meant a cranky mom and hot, tired kids. I needed help!
The Arc of San Antonio came by for a home visit and brought several important resource contacts. First was Respite Care. At that time, they offered in-home respite and Parents’ Day Out programs.
I registered for Respite Care as soon as I could. I had an option, if needed, for Ryan’s care. Both Ryan and Katelyn could attend the Parent’s Day Out program, so I could go grocery shopping without my little caravan of wheelchair and shopping cart! It was such a relief.
The next stop was Camp CAMP. While they ran an overnight camp in the Hill Country, they also provided a Parent’s Night Out program once a month in San Antonio. Those monthly Fridays gave my husband and I time to go out to dinner, see a movie, or even do that all-important Christmas shopping.
The camp’s Hill Country location was more daunting. Ryan had many medical challenges, so we were hesitant for him to spend a week there. After meeting Dr. Chris Johnson, one of the camp's founders, we felt much better about entrusting our son with the staff and volunteers there.
Dr. Johnson had a huge heart and a commitment to providing our kids with an amazing camp experience. She also had volunteer doctors, therapists, nurses, and teen volunteers from throughout the country to staff the camp.
So our second summer in San Antonio marked Ryan’s first week of camp. We could not have been happier about the experience. He had an incredible week at Camp CAMP. He had great counselors who made sure he joined in each activity. He rode horses, went canoeing, swam, and made great friends. You know, he really experienced all types of summer camp fun!
By the next summer, Katelyn finally talked us into letting her attend Sib Camp during Ryan’s week in camp. The sibs had their own tribe and special attention. Rick and I had our first ever week without kids! Truthfully, we stayed at a local hotel about 10 miles from camp, just in case. Camp was a win-win for all of us. Ryan got to be a kid, Katelyn bonded with kids who understood her role as a sibling, and Rick and I got the chance to reconnect as a couple.
The Arc of San Antonio, Respite Care of San Antonio and Camp CAMP were our first San Antonio supports. Our family benefitted from these important organizations. They helped us find our way home.
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During the COVID-19 pandemic, we asked parents of children with disabilities and special health care needs to share their tips and stories about caring for their children during difficult times.