Every summer, Joey Travolta directs two week short film camps at college campuses all over the country for children and teens with autism. The program is designed to develop self-esteem, confidence, social skills and creativity through acting, improvisation, and digital film making within their peer group. This year, Joey has added animation to the mix, with the classes taught by a 16 year old girl with autism named Dani Bowman, who founded her company, Powerlight Studios at age 14 and has been working as an animator professionally ever since. To share her experiences in traveling and working with others with autism, Dani has created a video blog of the experience, four of which will be shared by Autism Speaks over the summer. The first episode is the preview to the first camp in Jacksonville, FL.
They say, when the sun’s out, the fun is out! But for those living with autism summer can be a challenging time. It often means breaking from routine – no school, new programs, vacations, camp, etc.
Tell us about your child’s successes in a summer community activity, such as summer camp? How did you learn about the activity? How did you plan for success? Suggestions for other parents?
Your responses will be included in July’s Community Connection’s Topic: Community Inclusion Sign up for Community Connections today
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This is a blog post by Liz Applegate, the Program Marketing and Social Media Manager at Camp Summit.
Ah, summer camp.
If you were a summer camper you can probably remember it like it was yesterday: Fun activities like horseback riding or arts and craft; roasting marshmallows around a campfire; and even staying up late, giggle under the covers with your cabin-mates.
Or maybe, like me, hearing camp stories from childhood friends would have you green with envy and dreaming of the day when you could share the experience with your own children.
But what about a child with Autism? What about your child with Autism? Could these dreams hold true for them as well?
These are questions the staff at Camp Summit is asked by many possible first-time camp families and the response is always a resounding “Yes!”
Camp Summit is unique in its ability to care for campers with no upper age limit. Because of this, success can be built and measured continuously from age six through adulthood. Not only is success seen through continued yearly attendance but also watching campers grow and mature through the years.
From mild to severe, campers with Autism are nurtured to take part in activities with their group and many participate in the much coveted dance at week’s end. This takes place in an individual’s timeframe-maybe over a few days or maybe over a several years.
Besides a much needed respite for family and caregivers, the benefits of attending camp reaching into the daily lives of our campers and families is often seen. A family recently expressed great joy in sharing news of a successful family vacation with their child with Autism. Through the experience at Camp Summit, the camper was able to fully participate in the activities of the vacation creating memories for all.
But as a caregiver how can you help ensure a successful camp experience for your camper?
Just as your summer camp experience (or that of your friends’) was unique for your needs and interests, so must a camp for a camper with Autism be unique. Camps, even those for campers with disabilities, are not “one size fits all” and it’s important to find the right one for your camper.
Some important questions to consider:
- What is the camper to counselor ratio?
- How does the camp staff handle transitional times (moving from activity to activity)?
- How are food allergies and sensitivities handled?
- What if your camper doesn’t want to participate in a given activity?
The benefits of camp are often immeasurable. From needed rest for the family or experiences outside the normal realm of activity, often small accomplishments can be measured in treasured memories by the camper and their families. And through the ongoing efforts of a trained camp staff and continued participation, your camper can enjoy fun experiences from your own summer camp memories…and maybe even leave you green with envy for a roasted marshmallow or two.
For more information on camping programs, including our new fall camping schedule, at Camp Summit, visit our website at www.campsummittx.org.
This is a post by Beth R. Weiner, Director of Camp Good Times of Charleston, as well as the mother of two campers, one of whom has autism.
For the past 11 years I have had the opportunity to send my boys to a great summer day camp. They get to go swimming everyday, shoot baskets, do arts and crafts, go on field trips to the movies, water parks, mini golf, get computer time, and see the friends they have made over the years. Luckily for me, there is Camp Good Times of Charleston, a summer day camp for kids with autism. One of my boys is diagnosed with autism, which can make it difficult, if not impossible, to attend a typical summer camp. I am also fortunate to be the Camp Director.
Camp Good Times has been operating since the 1970s when it was created as extended school year by Dr. Lucia K. Horowitz for the Charleston County School District. We are now a 501©3, non-profit. Camp Good Times is a great camp experience because not only do we offer summer camp fun, but campers get to go to camp with kids not diagnosed with autism. These children are considered “typically” developing and all the kids are grouped by age. In a lot of cases it is hard to tell the “diagnosed” kids from the “typical” kids. It doesn’t matter; every child who goes to Camp Good Times is assured of a fun filled and safe summer camp experience.
That is what families are looking for, camp, not school, not therapy, but camp.
One of the ways, the most important way, we do this is that we hire adults. Our staff, who return year after year, are area educators. 80% of the staff has been at camp for at least 5 years. Hiring area teachers and classroom assistants is great on several levels. They bring a maturity to the position, they are responsible, they understand children and most importantly they learn about autism and its many faces. After camp is over, they return to their schools and have new positive ideas of what a child with autism is like, is capable of and become strong advocates for them at their schools.
Imagine this scene, families dropping off their camper in the morning, 112 campers coming in at 8:30, chaos, yes but that’s a typical morning at a summer camp. There is something that happens to families when they see all these other families, who have the same issues that they have. They look around and see that they are not alone, maybe they start talking to each other, make a connection, exchange an idea. These hallway “support groups” have always done me more good than any formal parent support group. They see their kids in action, they are being themselves and they are accepted. Sometimes a parent is overwhelmed, they thought they had it so bad, but in reality they are just like some of the others, some find themselves thinking they don’t have it so bad and reach out to others to share something they found works for their child.
There is a camper who goes to my school. At school I never saw him smile, as he dragged himself from class to resource class. At camp he was a star. He was funny, had friends, his counselors loved him. Now at school I see him every morning, we high five, side five and low five, and for a moment, I see that camper again.
To learn more about Camp Good Times of Charleston go to our website
Here’s to happy campers !!!
Camp Director, Camp Good Times of Charleston, Inc.
Welcome to this installment of ‘Topic of the Week.’ These topics stem from submissions from our community. If there is anything in particular that you would like to see featured, please contact us!
Choosing the right summer camp for an individual with autism can be a challenging task. How do you choose a camp? What is important to you when choosing a summer camp?
For more information about the Autism Speaks Baker Summer Camp program, please visit here.