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Working Towards Brighter Summer Camp Opportunities

Summer is a special time of year for most children. It is a time to spend with friends and siblings exploring new places and meeting new people. Fun in the sun is a top priority for many who take a vacation from the typical school year activities. Children with autism are often not supported by usual day camps that are offered for children during the summer. Given this need for creative summer time options, the John Maxwell Biasco Foundation for Children with Autism developed a two-week day camp in Naples, Florida that provides a camp experience for children with autism. Children are encouraged to choose and engage in new activities and work together as a team, thereby improving upon current communication and socialization skills. Together, local parents and professionals assist the campers in reaching their highest potential.

This summer, CARD was invited to complete an evaluation of the second annual Camp Sunrise in order to assess their present application of what we know to be best practices in the field of education and support for children with autism. CARD’s goal was to identify camp strengths and needs and to assist in the development of a plan for the camp to implement best practices (including a specific focus on opening Camp Sunrise to campers with and without disabilities in the summer of 2002). The CARD evaluation team assessed the camp with several methods, which included a Program Assessment Instrument for Students with Autism, personal interviews, direct observations and a review of records.

Findings of the evaluation indicated strengths in collaborative teaming and ongoing assessment. The camp environment was rich in experiences, based in fun and included typical peers or “teen volunteers” and members from a local Boy Scout troop who participated in various camp endeavors. Nature hikes and building real campsites were just a few of the inclusive activities enjoyed by all.

 

 

 

The Camp Director and Camp Sunrise Advisory Committee met with CARD staff to review the findings of the evaluation and developed an action plan for the upcoming summer camp. Together the John Maxwell Biasco Foundation for Children with Autism and CARD are working to improve the summer opportunities for school-aged children with autism.

The following are some of the action steps included in the 2002 plan:
• Inviting same age peers to participate in the two week camp.
• pre-camp workshops for staff covering four content areas (Antecedent-Based Interventions, Friendship Development/ Social Interaction/Peer Facilitation, Collaborative Teaming, and Disability Awareness with Peers).
• Collaboration with education majors from the local university and the Florida Inclusion Network (FIN).
• Pre-camp planning time for teams.
• Daily communication from camp to home.
• Technical assistance with inclusive practices.
• Second evaluation of Camp Sunrise 2002.