If you read my blog regularly, you probably know that my son, Sam has what is described as, “Low functioning Autism”. For him, that means he can’t talk yet, wears pull ups, struggles with new experiences, has severe learning difficulties, sensory processing disorder, challenging behaviour and lots of other quirks too. Despite all of that, Sam is a typical 7 year old boy. He loves to be outdoors exploring the world, he loves getting muddy and he gets great pleasure from many new experiences. I have been desperate to take Sam camping for a couple of years now, but for one reason or another, I haven’t got round to it… until now!

Earlier this week, one of my friends and I packed up the car and whisked Sam and the dogs away for a camping adventure We went to Lady Heyes Park, which is near Chester (45 minutes’ drive from our house). When we arrived, we clipped the dogs onto the car, and put up a camping chair for Sam. I gave him a bag of his favourite marshmallows and iPod, which kept him entertained until we’d pitched the first tent…

Once the first tent was up, Sam took himself off into there and chilled out while we put up the 2nd tent. He was absolutely brilliant – I couldn’t get over how patient he was. Aside from one nappy change and a couple of drink refills, he entertained himself in the tent for almost 2 hours while we pitched the 2nd tent, inflated air beds and sorted everything else. (Sleeping bags, electric hook up, food, cooker etc)

Once we’d done that, we all went for a walk down to the site’s clubhouse. Amazingly, dogs were allowed inside. We ordered Sam some Sweet Potato Fries. These arrived piping hot, and Sam burnt his fingers on them. That upset him briefly, and he refused to try the chips again, but remained calm. He drank his Orange Juice happily enough, while my friend and I ate our food.

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Next, we took the dogs for a walk to the “secure dog run”, where we let them off to let off some steam. This backfired massively, as they managed to escape through a concealed exit and ran riot round the campsite. Sam got very distressed at this point, and had a massive meltdown. He was screaming for well over an hour, and desperate to go home. He kept climbing into his car seat and refusing to budge. (Thankfully the windows were all down and the boot was open, so he wasn’t getting too hot in there. After around 90 minutes, I made Sam an Omelette – one of his favourite meals. He got out of the car for that, and once I’d changed his nappy again, he calmed down massively, and seemed to relax again. He took himself off to the tent with his omelette and his bedtime sheep, and seemed to accept he was going to be sleeping in the tent.

Once the sun started going down, Sam seemed to come out of his shell more again. He joined us round the camping stove and had some more marshmallows and sat watching the world (and the clouds) go by…

I wasn’t convinced Sam would settle easily, but he proved me wrong! I let Sam take the lead, as I was determined to keep him up as late as possible, in the hope of getting a few hours’ sleep in. Sam was trying to go to sleep at around 9pm, so I got him ready for bed and then we had some sleepy cuddles. He eventually fell asleep at around 10pm…

Sam slept through until 7.40am! (He woke briefly twice, and switched his sheep on, but settled back to sleep straight away). Once he woke, he stayed in bed, relaxing with his iPad, so I took him breakfast in bed into the tent. Sam ate this and then got up, Once he was dressed, Sam sat patiently in one tent while we packed away the other, then he sat on his chair and pottered around, running up and down our pitch while we packed away the 2nd tent and all of the gear.

All things considered, I think Sam did amazingly well. I am confident he’d have had a much better time if we didn’t have the dogs with us, but he still handled it really well, and made me super proud! Well done Sam!

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