My oldest son is in 5th grade. Every year, the 5th-graders go on a 3-day Science field trip to Camp Jolt on Lake Texoma. Wade uses a wheelchair. He also uses a computer to talk. He does not use his arms well, so he needs help with all activities.
Wade is fully included at his school, which also means going on this field trip. I thought it was very important that he go. He wanted to go and be with his friends. But an overnight field trip in the woods is a challenge, especially with a wheelchair. So, what did we do to make sure the trip was successful and safe for everyone?
First, I called Camp Jolt and talked to the head instructor. I explained our situation. I explained my son’s needs. I also made it clear I wanted him involved in the activities. I didn’t want him to just sit on the sidelines.
The instructor insured me it was not a problem. She gave me options on several sleeping arrangements. We also talked about how he would get through the walking trails in the woods. They had a gator utility vehicle, so Wade could ride in the seat in the back with a seatbelt. There was also just enough room for his wheelchair.
The science teacher also talked to the instructor at Camp Jolt. The two of them shared ideas about what they thought would work best for Wade and the class. The lead instructor assigned one of her veteran instructors to Wade’s group.
I then had a meeting with the principal, assistant principal, special education teacher, and a friend of mine. We made sure that all of us were on the same page and had the same expectations. We discussed all our concerns.
We decided I needed to go along on the trip to handle the bedtime routine. I also thought it was very important for Wade to stay in a cabin with his classmates. There was a cabin that had two chaperone rooms. Wade and I stayed in one chaperone room, and the other two chaperones stayed in the other. The boys stayed in the room with bunk beds. This worked out really well. Wade could hang out with them during the down times.
We also made sure the school transportation provided a wheelchair-accessible bus and that other classmates rode the bus with Wade.
Finally, I drove separately in my van. If anything happened, I would be able to transport Wade with his wheelchair.
Communication with everyone made this trip very, very successful. It was so much fun! All the adults and kids helped Wade. He loved riding in the gator through the woods. It was a trip I think he will remember for a very long time.
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