Many adults have fond memories of their childhood camp experiences. Swimming, hiking, and making new friends are all part of the experience, and the benefits last long after camp is over. Camps help children gain independence while practicing teamwork, cooperation, and interpersonal skills that will serve them throughout their lives.
For children with disabilities like autism, the camp experience may be even more important. Children with autism have social deficits that can affect them for the rest of their life if they don’t receive the help they need. School programs and therapies can help, but providing supported social opportunities where these children can practice their skills successfully is key. Camp experiences can fit this mold nicely.
Specialized camps can help children with autism learn the social, cognitive, communication, and sensory skills that don’t come naturally to them. They can also prevent the regression that often comes over the summer, when children are not attending school and are likely to be spending their time in solitary pursuits. These children may feel overwhelmed in a camp setting with typically-developing children, but a camp that is suited to their needs can make a huge difference.
Camp setting are different than school or therapy sessions, where skills are generally learned in a rote manner. At camp, students are given the opportunity to interact with others who have similar challenges, with support. Through participation in games and sports, the interactions are fluid and spontaneous, not rote and scripted. Fresh air and physical activity can help children with autism relax and enjoy their interactions, which will motivate them to seek out further interaction.
There are many camps across the United States and other countries designed to help children with autism. Some are day camps, others offer overnight options. Parents can find camps designed around all kinds of activities or special interests, from horseback riding to extreme sports.
While the benefits of camp are clear, many parents struggle with the cost. It can be expensive to run a camp that requires extra counselors with special training, along with the other costs associated with such an endeavor. Organizations such as the Autism Spectrum Disorder Foundation (ASDF) offer scholarships to families who would like to send their children to camp, but lack the financial resources to do so. For more information, see their website at www.myasdf.org.
Other camps try to lower prices by accepting donations from individuals or organizations, or by raising funds through internet sites or other means. Horsepower for Kids, Inc., a horseback riding camp for children with autism in Tampa, Florida, is raising funds for a modular classroom via the website Go Fund Me.com. For more information, see their web page at www.gofundme.com/warriors4autism.
A quality camp for children with autism can be a worthwhile investment. Websites such as www.mysummercamp.com can help parents search for an appropriate camp for their child. Learning is best when learning is fun, and children with autism deserve opportunities to learn this way.