A Unique Summer Camp Experience

Today when discussing the symptoms of autism I began to think about how their summer camp would structure itself. My friend works at a camp with kids with genetic disorders so I knew there had to be camps for kids with autism. Surprisingly there were no camps specifically for autism. There were many, however, for kids with learning and social skill disabilities. This included ADHD, Aspbergers, and milder cases of autism. Most of the camps advertised an improvement program in learning and skills that that these campers develop over the summer. Camp Buckskin was one that caught my eye. They boast:

Our campers have average to well above average intelligence. They also have a world of potential in many areas that has yet to be developed. They simply need extra help and support to convert their potentials into abilities.The Buckskin program effectively utilizes the summer to help youth not only stay focused, but gain knowledge and skills while improving existing abilities. These new abilities and skills help produce a smoother transition to the new school year. Perhaps more importantly, these gains also help them to become happier and more successful.

Although many of the campers are very intelligent they are unaware of how they make other people feel. This camp helps to teach children on two levels: visible achievement and through the Personal Growth program. Through traditional camp settings mixed with some academic activities these troubled children learn as well as demonstrate their new skills in daily settings. Their achievements are recognized, this is the more visible part of camp. The Personal Growth program is custom made for each child by their parents previous to entering camp. The parents select specific goals for the child to work on throughout their duration at camp. There is no scheduled events to help with these skills, as the opportunity arises the kids address their issues. Learning opportunities focus on “peer relations, interpersonal communication skills, problem solving abilities, and other similar skills.” The progress made in camp is recorded daily and given to the parents afterward. Parents appreciate this and discussion is welcomed for further progress in these areas.

These camps are essentially the same as summer camps for kids without disabilities. There are slightly different focuses at camp but it is essentially having fun, making friends, and learning. I think it’s really important for kids to have this opportunity to lead normal, independent lives. I have always regretted not being able to go to summer camp. I think that summer camps specifically geared towards kids with learning and social disabilities are great resources for kids and parents and they should take advantage of them.

I wonder if kids with severe autism are able to go to some kind of camp setting, are they even willing? Would  being out of their comfort zone be beneficial or detrimental to their health? For kids who crave a schedule camp may set them back more than help them progress. I wonder about what is the best way for parents to help their children who have developmental disabilities.

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2 thoughts on “A Unique Summer Camp Experience

  1. I really enjoyed your journal entry because this upcoming summer I will be working at a similar summer program known as YouthCare. Like Camp Buckskin, YouthCare is a therapeutic camp for children commonly diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, High Functioning Autism, PDD-NOS, and Non-Verbal Learning Disabilities. The camp is structured to develop a child’s social communication skills, group skills, and executive function skills while partaking in traditional summer camp recreational activities. In the past, I have taught swimming to mentally and physically disabled children and it was amazing how beneficial it actually was for them. YouthCare’s main focus is of course to incorporate therapeutic interventions into social activities. They apply what is known as the social thinking approach, which uses ideas such as “we think with our eyes” in order to figure out the thoughts, intentions, and emotions of other people. On the website below, one can find some of their other core philosophies, which I find rather interesting. In reference to the idea about summer camps for severe autism, I agree in the curiosity as to if they would be willing. I would also imagine they would need much more attention than these summer camps currently allocate. While YouthCare breaks children down into smaller groups of 5-6 with 2 leaders, I have already been warned of the future challenges to individually attend to the specialized needs of each highly sensitive child. This makes me think that severely autistic children would not be able to co-exist in a group this large and therefore a camp experience for them may not be very conducive to progression.

    http://socialthinking.com/articles/core-facts-and-theories.html

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  2. I think there are fortunately many camps that are out there for children with mild to moderate special needs. I have worked at a camp that emphasizes socialization as part of having a typical camp experience. The counselors themselves really help as the children work on their individual challenges. They even attend one camp activity titled social skills. This really aims to focus on games and activities that try to mimic challenges that they may face with social interactions. For the more high functioning children, they really feel safe at camp. They attend typical school are by 8 years old, definitely know that they are different from their peers. They feel self-conscious during the school year and this makes social interactions even harder, especially when their differences are pointed out to them or mocked. Camp with other children like them gives them an opportunity to feel comfortable and the form special friendships. As far as the adjusting to schedules go, I have found that informing them of schedule changes in advance of the changes gives them time to process them and they are less resistant to them. As far as camp goes, summer changes schedules from the regular school year anyway and camps made for children with special needs are, at least in my experience, that they are very structured. The children come and visit the camp the week before it starts and attend some activities to get used to how things work. After the first week of camp they are used to the way things work.

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