Camp Twitch and Shout 2017
Sarah Schork - August 8, 2017
On our first day of training counselors were told, “At the end of the day, they’re just kids.” Camp Twitch and Shout is a place where kids are honest, straightforward, and quirky. They’re the type of kids who scare us half to death with their ideas and their sassiness… almost like us a short time ago. Like all kids.
They have crushes, hate wet socks, and are mind-blowingly brilliant while also unapologetically creative. They’re afraid of heights, but gender wars and pretend marriages are usually on the calendar. It’s scary stuff, figuring out who you are and who likes you, but all these kids are willing to conquer the world – as long as they have a buddy beside them.
As a counselor the goal is not to become a buddy, but to empower and affirm the cool stuff. Kids are drawn to cool, so you have to show them how cool other campers will think they are. One of my campers, a pre-teen with turquoise hair and a love of science fiction spent the entire week singing her heart out in whatever time she wasn’t doodling hybrid species or talking about plants. When it was the night of the talent show, she refused to sing “Can’t Help Falling in Love with You” by herself and was adamant about her “lameness.” My cabin leader and I stood with her on stage and she transformed in moments. Now, not alone, she was totally confident in singing a cappella while simultaneously ignoring our incoherent murmuring. There were high praises all night and she glittered.
Moments like these were the hallmarks of camp. Dancing was included in every celebration of fear stomping and friend-making. Brilliant as kids are, wonder is still easily accessible and guaranteed when meeting someone who understands you. The gift of Camp Twitch and Shout is being in an environment of kids with Tourette’s who definitely understand each other in some fashion, even if the similarity constitutes screaming, “ORANGES” at the same time. All loud and loving – like most kids.
But sometimes the cost of wonder is ignorance. We underestimate the naiveté of children. Building stick teepees within minutes and being able to articulate biology better than most adults fools us into forgetting the terrifying moment of trying something for the first time. For asking someone to dance, getting rejected, climbing rock walls, or riding a horse. And of course, having absolutely no control over your body and not knowing why.
Kids with Tourette’s have a neurological disorder which causes involuntary motor movements and vocal sounds. Attempting to translate your feelings into words is difficult enough while you are young, let alone with the general populous believing you’re capable of controlling these motions, referred to as tics. Many say “holding in a tic is like holding in your breath,” and from our experiences of swimming pools and tunnels, comfortably holding in your breath isn’t possible.
Over time, we forget our breathless moments. We don’t understand and start flailing for the wheel. Thankfully, part of Camp Twitch and Shout’s mission includes providing informative sessions for the campers’ families with the hope of awareness and empathy as well as current research on the disorder. In families where a loved one has Tourette’s, there is always a ripple effect of struggle. Feeling frustratingly out of control is a universal and human rite of passage. When anyone suffers, we all suffer. Kids, let alone kids with Tourette’s, remind us how in all our lives we are powerless, but still dignified. Terrified, but worthy and deserving of love.
On any given day of camp, counselors might be hugged twenty times (by one camper). Love is another language of handmade bracelets, drawings, and abundant compliments of tics and interests. Our campers constantly reminded us of the power of defining ourselves by what we love, the capacity of growth through mutuality, and exactly how much silliness is warranted for making light of the unknown. I know a handful of adults who fail at the latter.
The campers, albeit loud and rambunctious, give us insight into how wonder thrives when having no control is combated with the knowledge and acceptance of just being a kid, new in joy and authenticity. Like all kids – like all of us.