Each summer at Camp Royall, Tommy Guthrie Johnson is all grins and giggles as he enjoys swimming, hiking, digging in the garden, and singing camp songs, silly motions and all.
Tommy, who is 14, is “complex,” said his mother, Megan Johnson. “He’s so challenging but so funny and smart and cuddly and loveable.”
Megan adopted Tommy when he was 2, and he was soon diagnosed with autism. He had experienced trauma, had no safety awareness, and was aggressive toward other children. He also is diagnosed with apraxia and did not communicate verbally.
Tommy required 24-hour supervision. At the Autism Society of North Carolina’s Camp Royall, campers receive one-on-one care and are able to enjoy typical camp activities in an environment structured to meet the needs of individuals with autism.
“The meaning of Camp Royall to my family is outside of paid professionals, there are very few people who can care for him,” Megan said. “So that one week of camp has been one of the only times that our family can do stuff that we can’t do with him.”
Tommy has come to the camp almost every year since 2010. He still requires constant supervision, but he has made “phenomenal progress” over the past year and a half, Megan said. He can engage with other children. He is very adaptive and communicates with a combination of verbal approximations, signing, and manipulating the environment.
At Camp Royall, Tommy can be engaged and kept safe while the rest of his family spends time together. “It’s truly a break because we know it’s a place he is well-loved and taken care of,” Megan said. “That says a lot about the skills, education, passion, and knowledge that you all put into the camp and the services.”
Tommy’s family has also used Autism Society of North Carolina (ASNC) respite care and attended some year-round programs at Camp Royall.
“Over the years, the support that the Autism Society of North Carolina has given our family has allowed us to keep him at home,” Megan said. “It’s hard to put into words or quantify the impact that the Autism Society of North Carolina and Camp Royall has had on our family.”
To help give back to ASNC, Tommy and his family participate in the annual Greensboro Run/Walk for Autism. Over the years, family, friends, school staff, and direct support workers have joined Team Tommy, wearing shirts with his photo as they raise awareness and funds.
The Greensboro Run/Walk for Autism is also a community celebration, giving individuals with autism and their families a chance to feel connected. Raising a child with autism can be isolating, Megan said. Even if you have supportive family and friends, as other parents are mentioning their children’s milestones, you feel like you are living in a different world, she said.
At the Run/Walk, her family has a day to be with others who understand their journey.
Step out to improve lives in the 11th annual Greensboro Run/Walk for Autism on Saturday, Sept. 28! The event at Jaycee Park will include a 5K race and a recreational 1K run/walk. Celebrate autism awareness and acceptance with music, refreshments, and vendor space that will showcase local businesses, service providers, support resources, and sponsors. Proceeds will fund local programs of the Autism Society of North Carolina.
Register today: www.greensbororunwalkforautism.com
Tags: ASNC, autism, autism advocacy, autism awareness, autism camp, autism nc, autism north carolina, autism resources, autism society north carolina, autism society of NC, Autism Society of North Carolina, Autism spectrum, Autism Spectrum Disorder, autism support, Developmental disability, Run/Walk for Autism