August 31, 2011
SUMMER CAMP DESIGNED FOR YOUTH ON AUTISM SPECTRUM CREATES MEMORIES TO LAST A LIFETIME
St. Louis, Mo. (August 31, 2011):Summer camp is an experience for many that resides amongst our fondest childhood memories. But not for everyone. Children with autism spectrum disorders often never get to experience summer camp due to their challenges with social interaction, stimulation and communication. Instead of worrying over poison ivy and sunburns, parents of children with autism worry over whether camps can provide proper care and support for their special kids. They fear they will send their children to camp only to have them immediately be sent back home. Great Circle, one of Missouri’s premier children’s social service agencies, wanted to change that.
In July, Great Circle’s Meramec Adventure Learning Ranch in Steelville, Mo. held two summer camps for families with children on the autism spectrum. The camps aimed to give families the opportunity to get away from their daily environment and spend positive, fun time together involved in adventure and outdoor activities. But what occurred was much more than that.
“I did not expect my son would ever go to an over-night summer camp,” confessed Brian Brooks, father of one of the boys who attended the camp. “But his experience was so great and I was very impressed and touched by what I witnessed there. I plan on him attending next year.”
Skilled camp staff members directed activities and assisted with sensory, communication and/or behavioral support – key factors in working with kids with autism. At the same time, typical summer camp cornerstones were present, including the families camping in tents and cooking their meals over a campfire with help from expert guides.
“These kiddos are so full of life and have such genuine spirits– they have changed me forever,” noted Kassey Odneal, assistant director of Meramec Adventure Learning Ranch. “I hope that the families and kids were able to take away even a small amount of what they gave to me and our staff. And I hope, more than anything else, that they are all stronger and refreshed families.”
The week-long camp was free for families residing in St. Louis County who support a child or children, ages 7 to 17, with diagnoses on the autism spectrum. Grants from St. Louis County Children’s Services Fund supported the costs of the camp.
Meramec Adventure Learning Ranch is located outside Steelville, Mo. For more information call (573) 775-5513 or 5523 or email email@example.com or visit www.meramecranch.org.