Talking to Camden’s 2nd Grade Class about Autism

I visited Camden’s 1st grade General Education class last year to talk about autism. His 2nd grade inclusion teacher was super supportive about having me come this year as well. Autism Awareness Month is a natural time to go into the classroom, but I can see how it would probably be more helpful for me to go sooner…after the students have gotten to know Camden a bit, but before the end of the year. They had a lot of good and sincere questions that they may have been wondering about for months.

Here is the letter that went home to the students. (It is almost identical to last year’s letter, as I haven’t found a book that I like better. Would love to hear suggestions if you have some.): parent letter image

I had 45 minutes to share, and it went FAST! The kids were extremely attentive, kind and engaging! I introduced myself and we jumped right in with this 4-minute Amazing Things Happen video.

We went over the three main characteristics of autism:
1. social impairment
2. struggles with speech/communication
3. repetitive behaviors12891488_10154091992909283_1672379358648847446_o

I tried to make sure the students knew that I was sharing Camden’s autism. There is a saying that goes, “If you’ve met one person with autism, then you’ve met ONE person with autism.” Autism is a spectrum disorder, meaning that has a broad range of what it looks like from person to person. Just because Camden likes/dislikes/does certain things, does not mean everyone with autism is like him. One of the challenges of autism is that it is an “invisible” disorder, meaning you can’t see it. If someone has Down Syndrome, or is deaf, or is paralyzed, you can see it. Many times, a kid with autism may appear to be a brat if they are having a meltdown. Maybe it looks strange to see them wearing noise-cancelling headphones at a basketball game. It might seem rude when they don’t respond to your question. Unless you know that someone has autism, sometimes people make assumptions. yoder visit 2

We discussed some of the statistics of autism:
1. 1 in 68 US children have autism.
2. 1 in 42 US boys have autism.
3. I didn’t go over specific numbers on wandering/drowning/bullying, but
discussed that the rates are significantly higher for those with autism.

I shared about Camden’s early days, and we talked about the difference between classic autism versus regressive autism. Camden falls into the classic autism category, as he missed milestones early on. We received in-home early intervention services from a speech therapist, occupational therapist, behavior therapist, nutritionist, and physical therapist. Camden was an extremely fussy baby with significant gastrointestinal issues and a sleep disorder that still persists to this day. I would share concerns, and was told “he’s just a boy”…”you are worrying for nothing”…”just let him be him”…”one day you’ll be begging for him to be quiet”…etc. Our in-home therapists, our pediatrician (who never even gave us the 15-month screener for autism), friends, and family members felt that  my concerns were unfounded and that there was nothing to worry about. ONE friend told me it was a good idea that I was getting Camden evaluated as she did see some red flags. So for my family (and numerous others who share similar stories as ours), when I read that the rates of autism are going up because of better diagnosis, I have to admit that is not our story. Camden does not have high-functioning autism where you are trying to decide if he’s just quirky or if it really is autism. If you’ve seen or met Camden, there is no doubt that he has very significant delays in each of the three main areas of autism.

I shared this quote with the students:not being able to speak quote

We talked about some people who were perceived as not being smart because they couldn’t speak or had altered speech, and we discussed how frustrating it would be to have people discount you or assume you aren’t smart simply based on your speech or lack thereof.

My uncle is deaf and was in special education during school despite being extremely intelligent. He has his doctorate in Education and is an amazing educator. He was teacher of the year for his district last year.

I showed this picture of Carly Fleischmann and told the students a little bit of her story: carly

Carly was diagnosed with severe autism and speech apraxia and the age of 2. She is nonverbal. Doctors said she would never progress beyond the mind of a small child. At the age of 10, she made a huge breakthrough when she typed “HELP TEETH HURT” on a computer. Her parents and therapists tried to get her to communicate through typing, but she refused for months. One of her therapists, Howie (pictured above), decided that if she wanted something, she would HAVE to type it. They knew she had the ability, but she needed to be pushed. It worked!! Today, she types with one finger and she has found her voice! She still struggles with OCD and communication, but she has proven that you can’t judge a person just from what you see. Her IQ is over 120 (above average) and she has a talk show called “Speechless.” Carly now prefers to use a communication app called Proloquo. You can learn more about her story in this 7 1/2 minute 20/20 report.

I showed a picture of Niko Boskovic and we talked a little about his story: letterboard

Niko is a young man who is non-verbal with autism. He started using a letter board (through the Rapid Prompting Method) after he and his mother attended a Rapid Prompting Method workshop in 2015. Niko’s mom always knew and believed that her son was smart…she just didn’t know how smart until he was able to communicate with the letter board. Before the workshop, Niko had been in special education classes. I saw on his blog where he posted a picture of himself on the first day of school the year that he started attending general education classes. Here’s what he said: “Today is the first day of school. I am looking forward to it because I want to learn so much. Happiness is knowing that I am late to the game, but I can still play.” 🙂 I was amazed by this 5 minute video highlighting Niko’s story.

I gave the students two examples of when Camden’s voice went unheard. Pear-8

Camden takes leftovers in his lunchbox, so I package it up when I am making dinner. One night, I had put his entrée, fruit, and drink in his lunchbox, put it in the fridge, and then we sat down to eat. That night the pears were disgusting! YUCK! We couldn’t handle the taste or texture, so we threw them out. The next day, when I picked Camden up from school, his teacher mentioned that he didn’t want to eat his fruit, but she had him finish it since she assumed he was just protesting. As soon as she told me, I felt horrible, as I realized at that moment that Camden still had the gross pears in his lunchbox that I had packed the night before. Can you imagine? Having to eat something gross, but not being able to tell someone (or get someone to listen) that you did not want to eat it? But since you struggle with communication, you were forced to do what you were told. That would be hard. *Apparently, Camden’s classmates mentioned this story several times to his teacher today. Please know, that this was no one’s “fault.” It was unfortunate. I wish I had thrown out the pears, but it slipped my mind. Camden’s teacher had him eat the pear, because I encourage the staff to have him eat since I send him with a reasonable amount of food. 99% of the time, Camden finishes his school lunch with no problem.

Camden went through a time when he loved watching the Cars movie and playing with his character cars. One night, he was playing with his vehicles from the Cars movie and I heard him say something about “Doctor Hudson.” I was making dinner, but briefly explained to Camden that the car’s name was Doc Hudson, not Doctor Hudson. He kept on playing. This happened at least three more times until several days later, Camden brought me his dvd player, and said, “Look.” The screened was paused on this picture: Doctor_hudson_dr_of_internal_combustionIt’s as if Camden were telling me, “Look lady…I know WAY more about the Cars movie and characters than you do. You make the dinner. I’ll know the stuff. Please listen to me. Just because it’s hard for me to speak does not mean that I don’t know what I’m talking about.”

And I wonder how often things like that happen for my kiddo.

my-brother-charlie-bookWe read the book My Brother Charlie. It’s written from the perspective of an autism sibling. Colorful illustrations and it’s good about discussing some of the challenges and joys of having a sibling with autism.

I received the students’ questions ahead of time. I found their questions interesting and insightful. Some of the questions were easy to answer. Some of them I had to take my best guess. And some of the questions don’t have easy answers.

  1. Does Camden like sports? I would venture to say that he enjoys watching sports more than playing them. But then again, he sure looks like he’s having fun in PE! He likes being in the pool, riding his adaptive bike, and going to Top Golf. If monster truck driving is a sport, then that might be his favorite to watch. =)
  2. What does he do in speech? Camden had his private speech session the day before, so I brought real-life examples of what he’s working on. Things like pronouns, prepositions, choosing the object that does not belong, using clues to guess an object, etc.
  3. How do you get autism?  I made sure that the students knew that autism isn’t contagious. It’s not something you catch like strep or a cold. And that just because they may feel like they have one characteristic of autism (like maybe social situations are really hard), that does not mean they have autism. They would know by now. I touched on the difference between classic autism and regressive autism. But mainly I shared that we don’t know for sure how people get autism and that researchers are working hard to learn more.
  4. What would Camden like to play with me? Camden LOVES recess, and will get upset on the way to school if it’s a rainy day and he can’t go out.  He enjoys racing sometimes. He likes playing on the playground equipment. Oftentimes, he enjoys watching other people play. I’ve seen him at the top of the slide just looking out and taking it all in. Like with any friend, it’s important to try and read his body language. Does it seem like he’s smiling and having fun?…then keep it up! Does he seem frustrated and like he needs some space?…then maybe give him a little time. Feel free to ask a teacher for suggestions.
  5. Why does he say “no” when I ask him a question? That’s a good one! My best guess is that Camden’s routine is so important to him, that if he hears a question like “do you want to go to the gym?,” he stresses that his schedule is going to change. Past and future tense are also hard concepts for Camden to grasp, so if you ask him, “Did you go to Medieval Times last night?,” he will say “no thank you” for fear that you are going to make him go NOW.
  6. Why does he make noises sometimes? That’s another good question that is somewhat of a mystery. I’ve heard some people with autism say that it’s to self-regulate when there is a lot going on around them. For Camden, he seems to do it most when he’s happy and excited. Sometimes he can be noisy when he’s scripting or reciting lines from movies, commercials, or books. He’s always working on memorizing something, and he will script it until he’s got it down.
  7. What is his favorite thing to do? On normal days he certainly enjoys electronics (his iPad and dvd player) as well as riding bikes, jumping on the trampoline, going to the park, racing his remote controlled car, swinging, etc.
  8. Why doesn’t he stay in our class the whole time? Our campus has a program for students with autism that’s called STC, or the Structured Teach Class. While inclusion time is really important for Camden to learn communication, social skills, and to work on academics, he seems to learn new information best in a 1:1 or small group setting. Special education students have what is called an IEP (or Individualized Education Plan), where goals are made specifically for that student based on his or her needs. Here’s the way our district defines the STC program: The Structured Teaching Class (STC) is a centralized, self-contained instructional arrangement designed to meet the needs of students who have characteristics associated with autism. STC provides a high degree of structure, a low student to staff ratio, and systematic use of a variety of research based interventions to enhance instruction, develop communication skills, and manage student behavior. Students have the opportunity to participate in many academic and non-academic activities with their non-disabled peers. STC classes are located on several general education campuses throughout the District.
  9. Does he like to watch movies? YES! Camden likes the Toy Story movies, Cars, movies about trains and vehicles, and he loves educational videos. He often will set the TV or video to closed caption so that he can learn the words while he watches. If Camden is in charge of the remote, it can be hard to watch with him as he likes to rewind his favorite parts or the parts he’s trying to memorize over and over and over again.
  10. Where is his favorite place to go? Hmmm…he really enjoys places like Great Wolf Lodge (actually, any hotel) and Medieval Times, but I would guess that camping and the beach are his most favorite places.
  11. What is his favorite food or place to eat? Camden is on a special diet due to allergies and gastrointestinal issues, so he doesn’t love a lot of the typical foods and restaurants that many kids enjoy. He does love mangos and chips. He typically eats a meat, veggie, and fruit for meals.
  12. What does Camden like to do when he gets home from school? Well…most days Camden has what is called ABA therapy after school. He has people that work with him on communication, play skills, social skills, academics, etc. After therapy, he gets some free time on electronics before we eat dinner. Here’s a picture of Camden with one of his therapists. He was working on his speech for the Living History Museum. We have a room set up in our house that’s kind of like a classroom. audrey

I gave the students a 4×6 picture of Camden. The photo had some possible similarities and potential differences listed. We talked about how we are all special and unique, and how we all have things that make us different.

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I shared this 2-minute video about Dillan, a teenager with autism who is nonverbal. Thanks to the iPad, Dillan is able to communicate. I am so amazed and excited to see stories like this of children who are able to find their voice in this world.

I printed this booklet titled Growing Up Together to send home with the students. It’s an easy read that touches on what is autism, how kids with autism act, why children with autism may act a certain way, what causes autism, and how to be a friend to someone with autism. Here are the tips on how to be a friend:

When you become a friend to a person with autism, you both learn a lot from each other. Here are some ideas that can help you be a better friend to a kid with autism: •  Accept your friend’s differences. • Know that some kids with autism are really smart, just in a different way. • Protect your friend from things that bother him or her. •  Talk in small sentences with simple words and use simple gestures  like pointing. •  Use pictures or write down what you want to say to help your friend understand. • Join your friend in activities that interest him or her. •  Be patient – understand that your friend doesn’t mean to bother you or others. •  Wait – give him or her extra time to answer your question or complete an activity. •  Invite your friend to play with you and to join you in group activities. Teach your friend how to play by showing him or her what to do in an activity or game. •  Sit near your friend whenever you can, and help him or her do things if they want you to. •   Never be afraid to ask your teacher questions about your classmates with autism.  • Help other kids learn about autism.

My time was up, and I looked at the precious faces of those 2nd graders and I thanked them from the bottom of my heart for being kind and respectful toward Camden. I thanked them for being good role models for him. I told them how much it means to me to see Camden at school with his peers…to see him included and learning and having fun.

We are so incredibly proud of Camden and who he is! He works really hard and has come so far. He is dearly loved by his people. =)

 

 

 

Monster Jam

Our boys received tickets to Monster Jam in their Christmas stockings this year. Carson has been a fan of monster trucks since before he was two. One of my favorite video clips of him is when he was 2, singing “Come on Let’s Drive that Monster Truck.” Such a sweet baby voice. And then there was the time he was so jazzed about the monster truck wall decals that Uncle Mike and Aunt Jenna got him for his birthday. Swoon. From the ages of 18months to 3 1/2, he typically had a monster truck in one hand and Little Dog in the other. Carson and Samson

We took Carson to the Monster Jam pit party just before he turned 3 (Feb 2013). Carson monster truck bday

He had a monster truck theme for his 3rd birthday. dscf9618

Carson had this Lots and Lots of Monster Trucks dvd that he watched every single day for at least a year. Things happen so gradually sometimes in parenting that there isn’t always a defined moment when things shift, but at some point Camden started watching that very same dvd. He memorized the songs. He’d get out his alphabet puzzles and lay out the same words/phrases/names of monster truck drivers, that was shown on the screen. I posted the following picture on Instagram on February 4, 2016, which was exactly one year from when we took him to Monster Jam. monster jam dvd 2016

It was fun to see Camden involved in pretend play with his monster trucks. He’d get out the track that his dad had made for Carson’s 3rd birthday, and he’d reenact what he had seen on the videos. monster jam course play

I enjoy finding things for our family to do together, so I was thrilled at the thought of us going to Monster Jam this year. A little over a year ago, I never would’ve guessed that Camden would be interested in monster trucks, and I certainly didn’t think we’d all be going to Monster Jam. It’s really crowded and extremely loud. We were going for it!

I had picked up free passes for the Pit Party a couple weeks before the event. Unfortunately, I left those same passes at home on the big day. The box office was completely sold out. We had arrived at 2:30, and the actual Monster Jam didn’t start until 7:30. There was a super nice couple behind us in line that gave us two tickets. And then I found a guy that was selling the free tickets for $20 each. We negotiated and headed into the Pit Party. monster jam 2017 overview

My plan was to give us some time to see the trucks and drivers up close before it got really crowded, which did not take long. Camden was happy and a good sport, but he started getting a little uneasy/confused asking about the race. At that point, I realized I hadn’t clued him in. In his videos, the trucks are always racing or doing tricks. They aren’t just sitting there doing nothing. If I had a time machine, I would’ve explained it to him better and written him up a schedule. Something like this:

  1. see the trucks and drivers
  2. go back to the van to eat dinner
  3. watch the Monster Jam races

Lesson learned. We talked him through it, and he calmed down. Even as his mama, I can forget the importance of clueing him in to what is going to happen. So we checked out some trucks and drivers and all was well. img_8373

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img_8376  img_8382  img_8385  img_8389  img_8396  img_8399  img_8406  img_8408  img_8421  img_8431  img_8433  img_8438

This picture with the boys and the driver of Stone Crusher is my favorite! They look like pals…like my boys could be part of the pit crew. stone crusher

I totally sound like my mother-in-law, but I had no interest in dropping a ridiculous sum of money on sub-par stadium food, so we went back to the van after the Pit Party and while we were waiting for Monster Jam to begin. As we were headed to the van, a couple of monster trucks drove by. Grave Digger drive-by

We ate dinner and chilled before heading back into the stadium. AT&T Stadium

We sat up high, but thankfully had front-row seats to give us a good view and more room. The incessant kicking from behind was unfortunate, but you can’t win ’em all. 🙂 Monster Jam seats

We knew we were taking noise-cancelling headphones for the boys. Brian picked some up for us that day, and I am SO GLAD he did! It would have been uncomfortable without them.

I LOVED watching Camden’s big smiles and excitement! monster jam smiles

AT&T Stadium was completely sold out! img_8478

Mom and dad have protection. 😉 Mom and dad headphones

img_8515  img_8520

I have looked at these pictures numerous times, but as I uploaded them onto my desktop, check out what I noticed on the monster truck above Camden’s head on the jumbo screen? Kind of fun. =) Camden Carson Monster Jam 2017

The free-style competition is my favorite. It was awesome! I am old and not a fan of crowds, so we bolted when there were three trucks still left to race. Between the drive home and getting up for church thr next morning, I say it was a good call.

This was a FUN activity for our family to do together. It also reminds me of a very important lesson that I can often forget…just because something is a certain way now, doesn’t mean it will always be that way. A year ago, I wouldn’t have guessed that Camden would’ve enjoyed a loud and crowded monster truck show. And I am sure that there are things he will do a year from now that I can’t even imagine today.

Looking forward to my next post when I share our new Autism Awareness designs!! I am CrAzY over the superhero one!! =)

Camping with the Crew at Tyler State Park

My mother-in-law was in town for a visit, so we took her camping with us last weekend. Last month we revisited Eisenhower State Park, and we wanted to try a new spot this month. We opted for Tyler State Park since it seemed to fit our criteria.

Over the past two years, we’ve refined what we look for in a campground.

Our list of demands preferences for camping (it keeps growing):

  1. We prefer a destination less than 2 hours from home. Camden doesn’t love car travel, but under 2 hours is reasonable.
  2. We like having a site with a screened shelter. It’s not 100% necessity. Maybe 95%. It’s helpful to have a place (other than our van/truck) to store our stuff…a place to flee from bugs when we are eating…a place to take refuge from rain.
  3. We want electricity and running water.
  4. We want to camp at a time of year when the temps get at least down in the low 70s at night so that we can sleep.
  5. We like a campground that has a beachy lake swim area. Really nice if the day-time temps are warm enough for swimming. We gotta have stuff to do, and swimming is a great past-time for our guys.
  6. We need a reasonable amount of personal space. Instead of a free-for-all system, we like being assigned a number and having some room.
  7. Hubby needs a good flat space that accommodates our 6-person tent.
  8. Mama likes a water-view.
  9. The kiddos need room to play (and preferably where they can have some independence)…to ride bikes, play soccer, drive the remote-controlled cars, etc.

Tyler State Park is just at the 2 hour mark from our house. We packed up the truck, picked the boys up from school after lunch, and we headed straight to the campground.

I had seen site S6 online and liked it, but hubby felt there wasn’t much play space. img_4538We settled on site S3 and it was a good home-away-from-home for us. The sheltered sites are in area 9 as you can see on the park’s facility map. I’ve heard good things about area 2 (the Lakeview tent and trailer camping area), as there are spots right on the water. Apparently, if you want a lake view site it’s best to arrive early.img_4135 img_4162A panoramic of our site: img_4243

 

The boys explored and played with their RC cars while we set up the tent and unloaded. The trees were so pretty!

We walked over to the fishing pier.

Then the boys “helped” me get the beds put together in the tent.

We feasted on chicken fajitas for dinner and then played around our site. We brought the boys’ bikes and they did enjoy riding them, but the roads around our area where too hilly for Camden to ride independently.

I had some chill time in the hammock Saturday morning.

Carson and Brian played with the walkie talkies while we headed out for a trail walk.

The trail was close to our campsite. It was an easy walk and nicely shaded.

So pretty and peaceful.

Carson, Brian and Grandmom played some Uno.

Thankfully, our site had some decent space to kick around the soccer ball. Carson loves soccer and Camden loves the hammock, so all was well.

It does make me smile to see how much Camden enjoys the hammock. So happy, and Carson so content with Little Dog.

Number 1 on our trail map listed a children’s wading pool and waterfall as points of interest. When we got there, here’s what we learned was considered the children’s wading pool. We passed and headed to the swimming area instead.img_4262We typically like there to be a sandy beach area at the campgrounds we visit to allow for sand play and water activities. The swim area at Tyler had a concrete wall with steps into the water. There was a sand area near the water. Here’s a panoramic of the area: img_4264It was clean and well-maintained. There were bathrooms nearby and a little store. The weather was sunny and 85-88 degrees with some wind. It was a nice day, but the water was a bit chilly. We still had a blast, but about 5-10 degrees warmer would’ve been helpful. Camden loved having Grandmom to pull him around on the floats and play. Carson and Brian played ball and jumped off the pier.

The boys did have a good time digging and playing in the sand.

The little store by the swimming area is where you go to rent boats. We walked over to see what the options were. img_4319Carson fed the ducks while we tried to make a decision.

We rented 2 of the 2-person kayaks for an hour. Grandmom stayed back. Carson and I shared a boat.

Brian and Camden shared a boat.

The lake was small (but pretty) enough that we were able to easily row around the lake within the hour that we rented the kayaks. Here’s the view of the swimming area from the middle of the lake. img_4458After a night in the tent and spending the day in the water, we were all looking forward to getting back to the campsite for our dinner of sliders. Brian realized the burgers weren’t packed, so we headed about 6 miles to Chili’s. Oops.img_4469Brian made breakfast Sunday morning and then we started packing up. img_4480It was extremely helpful having Grandmom with us so that she could watch the boys while we packed up.

A group shot in front of S3 before heading out. img_4543If you look at the trail map, point of interest #3 is near where we road bikes. We chose the EZ Loop since it was 3/4 of a mile and received an easy rating. img_4549It started out okay, but quickly became more of a challenge certainly for Camden’s adaptive bike, and at times, for Carson’s bike. It was hilly, narrow, and lots of tree roots growing across the trail. I wouldn’t have given it the “easy” rating, but that’s from the perspective of a special needs mama. The pictures look harmless. That’s because I was pushing someone’s bike and was unable to snap photos.

We stopped at the park entrance to snag a few shots in front of the sign. I always intend to get pics when we first arrive, as opposed to when we are all exhausted and dirty and done. Maybe next time. img_4571img_4578img_4582We enjoyed Tyler State Park. I’d be a-okay going back. I think our favorite is still Cooper Lake State Park. There are two sides of the park: Doctor’s Creek and South Sulphur. Both great!

You can check out our other camping trips here:

If you have any tips, suggestions, or favorite places to camp around TX and OK, I’d LOVE to hear!!

 

Camping at Eisenhower: Round 2

Almost two years ago, we went on our first camping trip as a family of four. Last weekend, we went back to the campground where it all started…Eisenhower State Park.

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October 2014 at Eisenhower State Park

Over the past two years, we’ve refined what we look for in a campground.

Our list of demands preferences for camping:

  1. We prefer a destination less than 2 hours from home. Camden doesn’t love car travel, but under 2 hours is reasonable.
  2. We like having a site with a screened shelter. It’s not 100% necessity. Maybe 95%. It’s helpful to have a place (other than our van/truck) to store our stuff…a place to flee from bugs when we are eating…a place to take refuge from rain.
  3. We want electricity and running water.
  4. We want to camp at a time of year when the temps get at least down in the low 70s at night so that we can sleep.
  5. We like a campground that has a beachy lake swim area. Really nice if the day-time temps are warm enough for swimming. We gotta have stuff to do, and swimming is a great past-time for our guys.
  6. We need a reasonable amount of personal space. Instead of a free-for-all system, we like being assigned a number and having some room. happy_camper

After this weekend, three preferences were added:

  1. Hubby needs a good flat space that accommodates our 6-person tent.
  2. Mama likes a water-view.
  3. The kiddos need room to play (and preferably where they can have some independence)…to ride bikes, play soccer, drive the remote-controlled cars, etc.

The week leading up to our camping trip, the forecast for rain was about a 90% chance throughout the weekend. The percentage went down the closer we got. We like the line in Peppa Pig where Daddy Pig says, “If you want it to rain, have a barbecue.” We would say, “If you want it to rain, go camping.” Most of our camping trips have involved some precip, and we don’t fret over it. Certainly one of the perks of staying at a site with a screened shelter.

I dropped the boys off at school Friday morning, and then headed to the campground to get a spot since it’s first come first served. This isn’t totally necessary, but I like to have a plan when possible. The park is a little under an hour from our house. I checked in at the main office to pay and grab a map. Cost for the screened sheltered spots is $30 per night. Entry fee is $5 per person (over 13) per day. Kids under 13 are free.

It was pouring when I arrived, and only two of the screened sheltered spots had been taken. I FaceTimed Brian to get his opinion on my top three choices. If you are a tent camper, there are not many sites in Deer Haven (the area with the screened shelters) that accommodate a large tent. If you like the idea of sleeping in the shelter, and you want to bring cots, you’ll be good to go! Get a park map when you arrive. Here are a few of my thoughts on some of the spots:

  • #30-My favorite spot because of the water view and the seclusion being at the end of the cul-de-sac, BUT there is no place to put a decent-szied tent and it’s quite an uphill hike to the bath house.img_3037
  • #34-A good flat space set back in the trees. You can’t see the lake from this site, but I’d still stay here. Hubby does shower duty when we are camping, and he felt it was too far and too uphill from the bathrooms. (This one was already reserved.)
  • #35-This one is actually a “cabin” with air conditioning that you can reserve. It’s $55 per night and is good spot.
  • #24 and #25-Both have good flat spaces, but are a little closer together than I’d prefer. If we were camping with another family and wanted to be close together, this would be a good set-up. Water view.
  • #1-Good flat space and roomy but no water view.
  • #14-Good flat space with water view and some grassy area to play.
  • #8-A fun spot that is somewhat set back. Flat space for tent. Water view. For our family it was too far from the bathrooms and too hilly for the boys to ride bikes.

I decided on campsite #20. There was flat space for the tent. Water view for me. Close to the bathrooms and play area. Camden Site 20

Brian and I packed and loaded while the boys were at school. Brian decided we’d pack everything in big plastic tubs to utilize space. We take the boys’ bikes, and since Camden’s adaptive bike takes up some space, Brian attaches the cargo carrier for the bikes and ice chest.

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packed and ready to roll

As you can see in the picture below, we were close to the bathrooms. Every single time Brian sets up the tent, Camden sticks close until it’s complete. He likes to help with the hammer.

The boys played with monster trucks while we unpacked and set up.

Brian got our hammock strapped to the trees. Both boys enjoy it, and it’s great sensory input for Camden since he loves to swing so much.

The play area consisted of three swings and a grassy area. Pretty simple. img_3090

Here are two panoramic shots of our site to give you an idea of our surroundings: img_3107img_3109

Saturday morning the boys rode bikes and drove the RC cars while Brian made breakfast. You can get an idea of the incline from some of these shots. Probably not bad for most kids, but for our sweet Camden with gross motor challenges and on his adaptive bike, he wasn’t able to ride independently. One of us needed to be close. Here’s a video of Camden going all kamikaze down the hill on his adaptive bike: https://www.facebook.com/candace.russell/videos/10157567289635571/

Our last camping trip to Lake Bob Sandlin had a very flat circle rode around the area where the boys could ride more independently. See what I mean? Lots more green space for the boys to play and run around.

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flat terrain at Lake Bob Sandlin Campground

 

Breakfast inside our shelter. My water view was just behind Brian and Camden. Always amazes me how everything I eat is so much tastier in nature.

It was hot on Saturday, which would’ve been quite uncomfortable if we were just hanging around our campsite. Our boys love the water, so we were thrilled to have perfect swimming temperature! Eisenhower State Park is on Lake Texoma. After the significant flooding in Texas two summers ago, the park did some maintenance to the sandy beach area. It was an improvement. Beware that the walk down to the water is pretty steep.

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here’s a mediocre shot of the sandy beach area

Not every campground has the sandy beach feature. We love it because it gives us options of digging and playing in the sand or enjoying the water. It’s a decent area for swimming and hasn’t been too crowded the two times we’ve been. Camden stayed in the water for the entire four hours we were there! He loved when speed boats would come through the vicinity and make waves. We took a camping chairs, a sheet to sit on, a shovel for the boys to dig with, some water toys, floaties, and drinks. eisenswim1eisenswim3img_3212img_3220img_3232img_3246

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Carson writing in the sand

There are some small caves to explore and rocks to climb near the sandy beach. I stayed with Camden while Brian took Carson. cave

My brother and his family live super close to where we camped so they came up Saturday to swim with us and have dinner. Fun to get to hang with them!

After a long day playing in the water, we were pretty tired. It was a bit warm going to bed. This was our first time bring a fan with us, and it did make a big difference. I had a hard time sleeping. Kind of eerie that there was hardly anyone at the campground. Then we got a POUR DOWN around 3:30AM. Major thunder, lightning and rain. The weather report was calling for showers on and off throughout the day, so Brian made breakfast while I started packing up the tent. After breakfast, we loaded our stuff and headed out. Carson wanted to stop by the marina before we left.

You can rent boats at the Eisenhower Yacht Club, but we did not. Brian wanted to stop for lunch and I wanted to get back for an autism moms’ night out event.

Here’s a bonus tip for autism families. If that’s not you, it may be best to stop reading now. You’ve been warned…

Let’s see…without going into too many details, let me say that it’s important for our kids to be pooping regularly. This is a struggle for many of our children with autism. Some kids don’t like using unfamiliar bathrooms and will hold it. My hubby picked up this outdoor toilet seat from Academy for $5 and set it on top of a Home Depot bucket. Worked like a charm! img_3210If you’d like to read about some of our other camping trips, here they are in the order in which we’ve taken them:

We have another camping trip next month to a new campground. Hoping a have a good update to share!!

If you have favorite campgrounds in Texas or have any tips to share, I’d LOVE to hear! Happy camping!

 

 

Camping with the Crew at Lake Bob Sandlin

Our family had a wonderful weekend camping at Lake Bob Sandlin. We got back into camping about a year and a half ago. Here are some of the camping trips I’ve blogged about:

Eisenhower State Park camping trip
Turner Falls camping trip
Cooper Lake South Sulphur camping trip
Cooper Lake Doctor’s Creek camping trip

We have a list of demands preferences for camping:

  1. We prefer a destination less than 2 hours from home. Camden doesn’t love car travel, but under 2 hours is reasonable.
  2. We like having a site with a screened shelter. It’s not 100% necessity. Maybe 95%. It’s helpful to have a place (other than our van) to store our stuff…a place to flee from bugs when we are eating…a place to take refuge from rain.
  3. We want electricity and running water.
  4. We want to camp at a time of year when the temps get at least down in the low 70s at night so that we can sleep.
  5. We like a campground that has a beachy lake swim area. Really nice if the day-time temps are warm enough for swimming. We gotta have stuff to do, and swimming is a great past time for our guys.
  6. We need a reasonable amount of personal space. Instead of a free-for-all system, we like being assigned a number and having some room.

The boys didn’t have school on Friday, so we headed out after lunch. The campground is located in Pittsburg, TX, and hour and forty-five minutes from our house. The boys watched Finding Nemo, and then we were there. I had booked a spot with a screened shelter. It’s first come first served, and we were thankful to get a great site.

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We’d had a lot of rain in the morning and were expecting more in the afternoon, so Brian wanted to get the tent set up ASAP.

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Camden loves the Muddy Puddles episode from Peppa Pig, and he was thrilled to reenact it in his rain boots.

So glad we wore rain boots because it was pretty messy and definitely more fun with boots.

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The boys love having their bikes when we go camping, but they do take up a lot of space. Brian purchased a metal cargo carrier before our last camping trip to tote the bikes. It’s a big help. We grabbed a trail map from the office. The boys rode a lot near our camp site, but we only did one trail. It was really muddy, and even though the .64 mile trail was listed as easy, it was a bit much on Camden’s adaptive bike.

Meals were yummy and fairly minimal effort, as we prepped as much as possible beforehand.

I love this picture of Camden in front of the tent. The kid is one happy camper! If you are reading this blog, odds are good you are aware of the statistics on ASD kids wandering to water. When we camp, we always make sure an adult has their eyes on Camden. There are times when Brian and I are both working on a task, and that’s when I’ll have Camden sit in one of our camping chairs with his iPad. I am able to keep my eyes on him. He certainly enjoys his electronics, but here is how much he loves camping…I was helping Brian with a meal and told Camden to sit in a chair and watch his iPad. He tells me “no thank you.” SO COOL!!! He’d rather ride his bike, drive the RC cars, or play! Play hasn’t/doesn’t always come easy, so I was elated!

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Happy camper poster child. Notice the lights behind him? That’s how the camping veterans roll. Crazy how much more fun it is with lights. Kind of magical. I think it’s an essential item now.

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The boys spend a lot of time on the remote controlled cars when we camp. It’s a fun activity for them to do together. We have the Rock Crawlers  and they’ve been a good fit for us.

The campground has a playground which we enjoyed for a bit.

There was also a small fishing pier. It was really crowded so we basically walked onto the pier, turned around, and walked off. See how impressed they look? 😉

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A sandy beach area is on our short list, but apparently I didn’t do all of my homework. There was a swimming area, but no sandy beach. You just kind of jump in. Probably not a big deal for most folks, but our boys can play in the sand for hours. Here’s the swimming area entrance to give you an idea.

The weather was a bit mild the first day we swam, but hot the second day. We had a blast…well, except for Carson saying he was cold. This is when the sandy beach would’ve come in handy. Camden had gotten two ant bites and could barely walk on Sunday, so it was nice to hang in the water where he didn’t have to put weight on his foot.

Brian bought me a hammock for Mother’s Day which we all enjoyed on this trip. Camden spent the majority of the day in it after he got the ant bites. Carson napped in it twice.

Tent sleeping is always challenging. Thankfully, Camden slept every night. Not sure it was all the activity or the Benadryl and melatonin. Whatever. The boys and I played fruit basket turnover with our sleeping arrangements. I’m thinking twin size air mattresses for all of us is the way to go. Here is our tent set-up:

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It was a bit warm and humid for comfortable sleep and there was some insect screaming. My quick Google search seems to point the finger at the cicada. What a dumb way to attract a mate, if you ask me. The last night we were there, random loud fireworks were going off which was disturbing to my boys who don’t like super loud noises.

We did venture to Wal-Mart one day. It’s only 9 miles from the campground and on the long list of things we forgot to pack, chocolate was one of them. What were we thinking?! So we had to go and rescue the chocolate. On the way back, we took a picture in front of the entrance. Every time we go to a state park, I always comment about getting a picture in front of the sign, but we never have until this trip. Not our best family photo.

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Here’s Camden on the pathway between our site and the bathroom. While Brian is in charge of bath duty for the boys, I will say he’s gotten it down to an art now. The kids are much better about showers these days, which helps. They go to the showers in their swimsuits and water shoes. Brian takes a canvas bag with toiletries and towels to hang up. There is always so much water on the floor, and he doesn’t want the boys touching anything, so he tries to keep it as stream-lined as possible.

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We stayed at screened shelter 85 and would recommend it.

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The boys watched Cars on the short trip home. Lots of laughter from the back seat. =)

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YAY for another successful camping trip! Woohoo!! I love making these memories with my crew!