Autism and Summer Education Activities

Autism and Summer Education Activities: Which Program is Right for my Child?

Summer is a great time for learners to have family fun, personal and educational growth, and exploration of new and exciting settings and topics! For children with autism or other delays, a specialized summer camp can be a life-changing experience. Empower is dedicated to keeping our families well-informed about these programs and want to assist parents in achieving access to some of the autism-friendly summer camps available, offering tailored activities, skilled staff, and a supportive environment that helps children thrive. Look below at some of our tips and recommendations on this topic!

Why Choose an Autism-Friendly Summer Camp?

While traditional summer camps offer fun and socialization, they may not be equipped to meet the unique needs of children with autism. Autism-specific camps, on the other hand, are designed with these needs in mind. They provide:

  • Sensory-friendly environments: Camps are set up to minimize sensory overload and offer quiet spaces, or sensory breaks when needed. 
  • Communication support: Staff are trained in various communication methods and can help campers express themselves effectively. Finding a camp that has staff seasoned in special education, ABA, speech language or occupational therapy skills can make a huge difference!
  • Social skill development: Activities are geared towards promoting social interaction and building friendships, which is oftentimes a huge barrier for children who receive in-home ABA.
  • Personal growth opportunities: Campers can try new things, develop independence, and build self-esteem in a supportive setting, all while seeing peers reach similar milestones!

Features of Top Autism Summer Camps

When choosing an autism summer camp, look for the following key features:

  • Trained staff: Counselors should have experience working with children on the autism spectrum or with children with similar diagnosis and be well-versed in techniques that work for neurodivergent learners.
  • Low camper-to-staff ratio: A higher number of staff members per camper ensures individualized attention and support.
  • Safety measures: The camp should have clear safety protocols in place and be equipped to handle any medical or behavioral needs.
  • Inclusivity: All children should feel welcomed, valued, and included in all aspects of the camp experience regardless of race, religion, gender identity, or disability.

Best Summer Camps in NJ and NY

New Jersey and New York have a wide range of summer camps available that are autism-friendly for young and old learners:

  • Transitions Summer Camp: The Transitions programs teach young adults with autism, ADHD, and other learning differences skills such as executive functioning, leadership, self-advocacy, social skill tools, as well as independent living skills.
  • Adirondack Expressions Art Camp:A joint project with the Transitions camp, this program is for young adults 15-27 with learning differences who want to express themselves via art! The activities offered in this program help learners with confidence, self-expression, and creativity.
  • Camp SkyWild: This traditional sleep-away camp experience in rural NY specialized in servicing neurodivergent individuals and their siblings.
  • New Friends Day Camp: This day camp program is for learners with Aspberger’s syndrome or level-1 on the autism spectrum.
  • Other camps can be found at this link: https://www.veryspecialcamps.com/New-York/Special-Needs-Summer-Camps.html

Best Autism Summer Camps in Virginia

Virginia also offers a range of exceptional autism summer camps:

  • Camp Virginia Jaycee – With locations in Blue Ridge and Chesapeake, this camp offers week-long overnight sessions filled with traditional camp activities adapted for children with autism.
  • Autism Society of Central VA Camps – Situated in the Richmond, VA area: “Campers will enjoy a dynamic blend of STEAM, movement, and social skills activities, with a focus on FUN! ASCV’s highly skilled, engaging, and compassionate staff partners with different community organizations to offer a wide variety of activities during our camps.
  • Shenandoah Autism Adventures – This day camp in Winchester provides a variety of sensory-friendly activities and focuses on building social connections.
  • Camp Thunderbird – Not directly geared for Autism, but is autism-friendly, this camp allows our neurodivergent developing leaners to participate in day-camp with neurotypical learners in a fun and engaging setting.

Preparing for Summer Camp

To ensure a smooth and successful camp experience, consider the following tips:

  • Communicating with the camp staff: Share your child’s needs, preferences, and any concerns you may have to maintain open lines of communication for the team.
  • Practice independence skills: Work on self-care tasks like dressing and toileting to build confidence before camp, and ensure the staff know all support needs necessary for your child, so they feel secure while at the camp.
  • Pack familiar items: Include comfort objects, favorite toys, or a special blanket to help your child feel safe and comfortable in the new environment.
  • Set realistic expectations: Discuss the camp schedule and activities with your child but be open to flexibility as they adapt to a new environment- remember the power of a visual schedule! Your BCBA at Empower can assist with this skill.

A Summer of Growth and Joy

Autism summer camps in New Jersey, New York, and Virginia offer an extraordinary opportunity for children to grow, learn, and have fun in a supportive and understanding environment. By choosing a camp that aligns with your child’s needs and interests, you can give them a summer experience they’ll cherish for years to come. If you have any questions about how to successfully support your child on their summer camp journey, feel free to discuss this topic with your BCBA at Empower ABA , or contact us directly at: info@empoweraba.com!

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