Written by Benay & Steve Josselson
We are the proud parents of a kind, lovable, curious and intelligent five year-old with a diagnosis of PDD NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified). We both attended Camp Ramah, and we wanted our son, who already shows a love of and thirst for Judaism, to enjoy the same experiences we had.
We did not know what to expect when we first approached Camp Ramah in Nyack to discuss our son. Having attended the same preschools and day camp for the past 2 years, no one could predict how he would react to the new environment and experiences offered by Ramah. We were nervous to open a dialogue, but knew that being honest – even when we did not have the answers – was the only way to begin a productive relationship with the staff at Ramah.
Starting with our initial conversation with the camp director in January and subsequent conversations with the camp psychologist, Rosh Edah (division head) and madrichim (counselors), we have experienced nothing but support, collaboration and a commitment to make this summer a successful one for our son. When on the second day of camp we received a call that our son needed extra support, the director generously assigned him a shadow. Over the next few weeks — with support from Matan and under the leadership of the committed Rosh Edah, shadow, and an amazing group of madrichim (counselors) who were eager to learn how to include and support him – we worked together to help our son adjust to camp.
And he has flourished! Our son just finished the first session of camp. With everyone at camp showing great flexibility in their efforts towards inclusion, the shadow pulled back gradually as he acclimated to the camp environment; he is starting the second session in his bunk without support. Over the past few weeks, we have observed tremendous growth from our son in the areas of communication, articulation of feelings, overcoming anxiety and trying new activities. Although we know that every day presents ups and downs, and there have been some challenges, our son comes home from camp with a huge smile on his face and lots of stories about the fun he is having.
We were moved beyond words by our son’s participation in Zimriyah (camp-wide music festival). He has never participated in anything like that before, no matter how excited he has been, sitting in the audience even as recently as his pre-k graduation. This was not for lack of trying on our part, or that of his loving teachers. To see and hear him sing in the Zimriyah is really a testament to the wonderful, hard-working, caring and patient Rosh Edah and madrichim, and the environment they have created for him at camp under the leadership of the director.
From the bottom of our hearts, we commend and thank everyone in the Ramah Nyack community for being our partner in making this summer a success.