Meet AJ

There’s always a first step — first step when learning to walk, first step into a new school, first step in knowing your options. For the Gonzales family knowing their options was the first step to getting Antonio, who prefers to go by A.J., into Social Opportunities and Recreation’s Summer Camp.

Rachel Gonzales, A.J.’s mother, was looking for summer activities for her son. She mentioned this to Josh Andrews, A.J.’s Care Coordinator from Crider Health Center. Josh heard about Community Living’s Summer Camp and told Rachel about the opportunity.

The rest fell into place. A.J. attended his first Social Opportunity and Recreation (SOAR) Summer Camp at the Family Center location in O’Fallon. “It was cool,” A.J. said. “We did a lot of swimming and field trips.” His favorite field trip was to Grant’s Farm. His mom said getting to feed the animals was the highlight of the trip.

And, when they stayed at the center his favorite activities were the playground and the sensory room. “I liked the couch in there (sensory room),” A.J. said. “And, the water machine with colors. It was huge!”

Each day Rachel and A.J. would look at the SOAR schedule, which was printed out for families to know what the activities were for the week. “This schedule was very helpful,” Rachel said. “It helped A.J. know what was going to take place and that would prepare him for the day. He was able to look forward to daily activities.”

There were some questions as to how A.J. would handle camp. Not only was he transitioning into a new schedule and routine by going to summer camp, he was also experiencing transition at home. But, A.J. handled the transitions well. “I think having the schedule and getting into a routine A.J. did extremely well transitioning,” Josh said. “He adjusted and even when stressful situations arose, A.J. was able to handle them with his coping skills.”

Through summer camp, A.J. met new people and tried new things. He said he tried pizza with pineapple as a topping and liked it.
Overall, Summer Camp was a fun experience for A.J. “A.J. was greeted with a smile every day,” Rachel said. “The staff was patient and the staff-participant ratio was good. Camp had many helpful activities for my son.”