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Fun for All at Summer Camp
Children with autism and related disabilities typically have limited after-school and summer recreation opportunities. Often, during summer school, they are offered segregated or center-based program options. Through a collaborative effort between the Center for Autism and Related Disabilities, Families as Teachers (FAT), the Positive Behavior Support Project (PBS) and the Learning Gate School, four children with autism attended an inclusive camp this summer. CARD, FAT and PBS Project provided training sessions for camp staff, typical children attending the camp, and parents. The training focused on creating a camp experience where ALL kids could feel that they are valued and welcomed to participate as much as possible. Learning Gate identified nine children to be "summer buds" or peer buddies to the children with autism throughout the summer (June - August). Each child with autism also had a team leader and adults assistants to help implement visual supports, adaptations, and behavior supports.

A tremendous amount of learning took place during the summer camp experience. At a meeting the typical campers expressed that they had developed new friendships based on understanding, respect, and fun. They learned about accepting people's differences and how to be a friend to a child with a disability. The campers with autism experienced a lot of new adventures. They actively participated in daily camp activities such as swimming, field trips, and art & crafts. Most importantly, they developed new relationships that bloomed into friendships!

How Do You Feel About Being A Summer Bud?

Alvin - "Happy and sad, because I know they want to talk to us, but they can't."

Tyler - "Happy."

Jessica - "Happy and sad, because they have autism."

Brittani - "Happy because Annie, Vincent, Joseph and Jordan are having fun."

Ellen - "Excited because I can be their friend."

Colby - "Good because it is fun and I like making them happy."

What Does It Mean To Be A Friend?

Help Annie on the swing.

Help them with work.

Share markers with them.

Do arts and crafts.

Play in the pool.

Remind them of the rules.

Let them sit by the window on the bus.

- Responses of the Summer Buds