Blog by Beth Weiner, Camp Director of Camp Good Times in Charleston, South Carolina, which received a grant last year:
The 2011 session of Camp Good Times of Charleston, a recipient of an Autism Speaks Baker Summer Camp Scholarship Fund, was activity oriented, fun, child centered, and safe for the 130 children who attended this past June. Our camp includes not only children on the autism spectrum, but neurotypical peers who come to camp, have fun, be campers and friends with everyone.
The highlights from our 12 days include…swimming everyday, field trips to area water parks, malls and movies, a visit from a Therapy Dog group, Spray Play with the local firefighters(which was really cool!), The OT class from The Medical University of South Carolina joined our staff for a day, a “Valentines Day” party, summer solstice party for our younger campers and parents, Yo-Music, a blend of Yoga and Music, art, sports, computers, singing and dancing, piñata party, pizza and the campers favorite part of the day…SNO_CONES!
Below are some of the individual campers who benefited from the Autism Speaks Baker Summer Camp Program grant:
Four of the children who attended live in a group home. The three girls, Jen, Dee Dee, and Monique have been in a residential group home for girls with ASD for as long as I have known them. Ahmad has been a camper for many years, and has only recently been placed in a group home run by the same organization. I was fortunate to be able to offer the Baker Summer Camp Scholarship opportunity to these children, since other public funding was not available and they would not have come to camp with out it.
Two of the campers who attended through the generosity of Autism Speaks had to have their own personal assistant due to medical needs. These families were able to get financial assistance for the medically necessary aides, but there was no funding left for the camp fees. I know these families want their child to have a typical summer camp experience and the respite provided them was much needed. The Baker Summer Camp Scholarship was able to provide that.
The other campers and families also have challenges throughout the school year. I have gotten to know these families very well, all of the camp families, and the fun experience that Camp Good Times provides their child and the respite provided the families is what they value. For more info and pics…visit www.campgoodtimesofcharleston.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.