48: Return of the Prodigal Son

48: Return of the Prodigal Son

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Raising Kids on the Spectrum

Return of the Prodigal Son

Laughter is an instant vacation.

~Milton Berle

My son Zach, now thirteen, spent the past three weeks at a sleep-away camp for kids with all kinds of special needs and disabilities. He has high-functioning autism, sometimes called Asperger syndrome. He is a very tall, cute, quirky guy with many challenges. He is also very bright and funny. Like most kids with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) he is very literal. For example, kids like Zach have difficulty understanding figures of speech unless they are explained and even then they have a tough time. If you say that someone is beating around the bush he looks around for shrubbery.

His arrival by bus on Sunday afternoon (in Toronto) was fabulous. When the three buses pulled up, I couldn’t see him through the tinted windows but I guess he saw me amid the throng of waiting moms, dads, siblings and dogs. The counselors got all of the bags off the buses before letting any campers off. When the doors opened he was one of the first out and came running at me, full speed, with a look on his face that any parent recognizes as three seconds to teary-time. I thought that the impact would send me flying like the world’s biggest bowling pin, but he slowed just a bit before grabbing me and treating me to the tightest and longest hug I have ever received from him. We went round and round for a few minutes before I could break out of his clutch, get a bit of distance and have a look at my five-foot ten-inch, golden-tanned cutie. (He grew at least half an inch in three weeks.)

He was ravenous, as usual, so we drove to our hotel and I got him a big burger and fries. He claimed to have eaten mostly bread for the duration of camp. (He has serious eating issues because of hypersensitivity.) He told me all about camp and how much fun he had. Trying new foods and new activities was a big goal we had set for him. Zach told me that he had tried sailing, archery, canoeing, kayaking and even high ropes. The one and only time he had cried at camp was when he was doing the high ropes. He was very scared but he had done it anyway. I told him that being very afraid and doing something anyway is the true definition of bravery. He’ll be getting lots of rewards for these accomplishments.

Then I asked about the disposable camera we had sent to camp with him. He said he had had a great time with it. He had taken twenty-seven pictures, of his bunkmates, counselors, waterfront, trees, activities, etc. When I asked him where the camera was he rolled his eyes, gave me a look like I was a complete idiot and replied, “Mom, it was a DISPOSABLE camera, so I threw it away.”

That’s my boy.

~Lorri Benedik

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