Justin Mack is one of our campers who has made an astounding amount of progress over the last couple of years. Justin started coming to Camp GonnawannaGOagin' when he was eight years old. We at FACT have watched Justin grow up over the last half decade and been there with his mom and family during the ups and the downs.
Justin, like a number of kids on the spectrum, started developing behaviors of aggression and destruction when he was in the 5th grade. He is minimally vocal and many of these behaviors likely stem from his inability to communicate when he is experiencing discomfort or is upset. Not being able to convey what is bothering you to the people around you can be extremely frustrating and led Justin to act out in aggressive ways. Justin's behaviors got so severe that in 2019 he actually busted one of the windows on FACT's van during summer camp. Despite these behaviors, FACT and our dedicated staff continued to work with Justin and bring him back to camp because we believe that no child with autism should be turned away for behavioral reasons. We made the necessary adjustments to make sure Justin was still able to have a great camp experience in a safe environment. Justin's mom always looks forward to when Justin gets to go to camp as she can always tell the difference in his demeanor and how happy he is to be seeing his friends.
Through a great network of support, Justin has made a lot of progress over the last couple of years. We were so excited when Justin was back at camp for week 1 this summer and got through the whole week with no acts of aggression or destruction. Justin's progress and the dedication of his mother and the rest of his support group is an inspiration to us and we were so happy to see his smiling face again this summer.
Justin's mom was particularly grateful that our awesome counselors, Mr. O and Big Justin (who is now shorter than Little Justin as you can see in the 2017 to 2021 comparison), always take such great care of her son and encourage him to try new things. This year, Mr. O and Big Justin got Justin to wear a life vest for the very first time ever to go tubing. Mom mentioned her family loves to kayak and fish but they were never able to go with Justin before because he refused to wear a life vest. She is ecstatic Justin picked up this and many other new skills during his time at Camp GonnawannaGOagin' this summer.
The story of Justin's progress and development is one his mother hopes will bring hope to so many other families who may be dealing with similar issues.