What Happens at Camp Arroyo, Stays at Camp Arroyo, Year 3

sleeping-bag-59653_640Last week, my daughter Katie attended Camp Arroyo, which is where the Exceptional Needs Network (ENN) holds its summer camp for special needs children in conjunction with the Taylor Family Foundation. This was her third year. The camp may be a short three days, but ENN really goes all out, providing two bounce houses, a swimming pool, service animals, petting zoo, popcorn and snow cone machines, ping pong, a host of special visitors, and a yurt devoted to art projects. They also had horseback riding, rock climbing, a zip line, and a dunk tank. Plus a dance on the final night.

Katie had the amazing Ashley Angeles as her aide again. She and Katie really took to each other last year, and the two picked up right where they left off.  As we carried Katie’s gear up the hill to her cabin, Ashley asked if anything had changed in the past year. “She’s getting a period now,” I said. “I don’t think it will happen at camp, but I packed some supplies, just in case.”

Ashley nodded. “We’ll be fine, whatever happens.”

We reached the cabin, and Katie picked out her bunk—in the same location as the past two years. She climbed up and spread out her sleeping bag and blankets, added her pillow, and flopped down. “Bye, Mommy.”

“You don’t want a hug?”

“Go bye bye, Mommy.”

Ashley and I laughed. “Enjoy your time off,” she said.

“I will.”

I walked back to the car reflecting on what a difference two years makes.


The next morning Ashley texted that Katie had gotten her period during the night. Damn, I texted back. That’s the worst timing ever.

No worries, Ashley texted.

The nurses thought Katie had cramps, so they administered ibuprofen. I worried camp would be spoiled by this turn of events, but Katie didn’t miss a beat. Both she and Ashley had a great time. Ashley reported that Katie made some new friends and let the other kids dunk her over and over in the dunk tank. She rode a horse, petted a goat, did the zip line, and ate nonstop. On Friday night, she danced so much that she was awarded the long distance dancer award!

Once again, my daughter didn’t just survive, but truly thrived at summer camp.


As for me, I watched a ton of movies on Netflix, wrote, and slept in every morning. On Friday, Nate and I went out for dinner, saw the movie Wonder Woman, and browsed at a book store. I had hoped to spend time with a new significant other, but unfortunately that didn’t happen. Even so, it was good to get a break from the demands of parenting.

As was the case last year, after three days away, Katie didn’t want to come home. This year instead of unpacking her duffle bag, she mostly cried and asked to stay. But she was happy to see me when I arrived for pick up (and possibly a little homesick). She hugged me, then hugged Ashley goodbye.

“See you next year,” Ashley said as we left.


We stopped at a park to swing, then headed home. Katie slept for much of the afternoon. By Sunday she had recovered and was asking to return to Camp Arroyo. A year is such a long time to wait….

Until next time,


About Cynthia J. Patton

Writer, Editor, Advocate, Speaker, Special Needs Attorney, and Autism Mom. Also the Founder and Chairperson of Autism A to Z, a nonprofit providing resources and solutions for life on the spectrum.
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