“You have no idea how priceless it is for Cassius to come home from summer camp exhausted because he had fun, not because he’s working so hard to try to make sense,” Erica Brady said as she talked about her son, Cassius Rodriguez.
Four-year-old Cassius has Sensory Processing Disorder, Attention Deficit Hypertension Disorder, Auditory Processing Disorder and high anxiety.
“It’s been very hard to find a place that will accept Cassius for being Cassius,” Brady said.
As a very new disorder, many daycares and day camps don’t accept sensory processing disorder as an actual disorder yet. Therefore, they classify it as a behavioral issue, according to Brady. They don’t really know what it means or how to handle it.
SPD is a condition that exists when multisensory integration isn’t adequately processed to provide appropriate responses to the demands of the environment. Brady describes SPD as having sensory receptors that don’t function at a proper rate. He can be over or under-stimulated.
For Brady, the struggle to find a place where Cassius can go and to be loved for who he is, was a heartbreaking journey. “I really needed to find a program that acclimated to him, to who he is,” she said.
That’s when Brady discovered The J’s Yachad Summer Camp inclusion program at Cassius’ school, the Friends School.
The J’s Yachad program works to help children with special needs have the best camp experience possible. Each child is designated a “buddy” who works with the child each day and stays in constant contact with the family.
“Oh Cassius is madly in love with his advocate, Mary. She’s taught him a range of songs and keeps constant interaction with me about how he’s doing at camp and how she can best serve Cassius,” Brady said.
It’s that constant, open interaction that gives Brady something that she’s not been able to find at camps: Peace of mind.
“There was one time that Cassius lost his custom-made hearing tubes for when he swims. Five people were searching for those tubes,” Brady said. “And I got emails from each of them letting me know the tubes had been found.”
Brady said that The J has welcomed Cassius, accepted him for who he is and simply loved him for it.
“Every time we drive by The J, Cassius always squeals and says ‘That’s my JCC!’” Brady smiled as she reenacted her son’s reaction.
Brady said Cassius has two favorite things about The J’s summer camps: playing “categories” in the swimming pool and walking with his stepdad, Eric Finney, to camp every morning.
“He’s about to go into kindergarten at Friends School and he always asks what he’s going to do without his JCC.”
It will always be here, Brady calms him and says.
“I just want him to be the best version of himself he can be and The J’s summer camp has helped him with that,” Brady said. “We are members for life.”
The J’s Summer Camp is funded in part by the National Inclusion Project, Allan Kling Second Century Fund, WHAS Crusade for Children, the Hannah Marks Fund and Jewish Heritage Fund for Excellence.
For more information on The J’s camps, visit jewishlouisville.org/jcc/camp/summer-camp. All spaces in this summer’s Yachad program have been filled.