The food, the gentle horses and cannonballing into the warm waters of Stave Lake are some of Alex’s favourite things at Zajac Ranch.

When Alex was four years old, he was diagnosed with ASD and PDD-NOS. While Alex struggles academically, he is a very social child. Hence, his parents are always looking for opportunities, outside of school, where Alex can participate in activities that involve social interaction and provide him with occasions to try new things – Zajac Ranch has been just the place to do it.

Because changes in routine can be stressful for Alex, a big part of the work he does with his therapists is being better prepared to handle uncomfortable and unexpected things. Attending camp at Zajac Ranch provides an opportunity to be exposed to new environments while still being under the care of staff and volunteers who understand his medical needs.

Kelly, his mom, shares how Alex’s experiences at camp provide hope for the future for the entire family. Since opportunities for Alex to experience things on his own are limited, the time they share as a family after camp asking questions and hearing all about the memories Alex has created is invaluable.

This was Alex’s 4th year at Zajac Ranch. It wasn’t until this year that the journey of ‘letting go’ became smooth for both Alex and his parents. During Alex’s first year at Zajac Ranch, Kelly shares how she had a hard time overcoming a constant state of worry and guilt. For his second year, it seems roles were reversed, and it was Alex who was expressing some hesitation to which Kelly calmly responded. His third time at camp was much easier; Alex was excited to go back and his parents were able to plan a much-needed trip away for a few days. This year, they incorporated camp as a regular part of their summer planning whereby Alex gets the amazing opportunity to go back to camp, and his parents also get to enjoy a little summer break.

Kelly offers a great suggestion for parents thinking about sending their child to camp: take your child out on a ‘visitor day.’ This will allow them – and you – to get used to the surroundings and will also set clearer expectations. Kelly expresses that for many parents, it seems like they have “been wired to be on high-alert, looking for moments where [they] can advocate, protect, teach, diffuse, negotiate, support, etc.” As such, she deems it important for parents to also be willing to push themselves to ‘let go’ for those first few days. In her words, “it is so comforting to know that, even when you’re not there to do it, your child is okay, and finds enjoyment in that freedom too.”