The meaning of summer camp for families impacted by autism
No matter how times change, summer camp remains a critical growth moment for many people. Whether camp taught you to be independent, foster friendships, or pitch a tent, it changed you in some way. This is true for many people, and it’s this truth that continues to earn summer camp a place in the hearts of future generations.
While typically developing children head to camp this summer, children with autism spectrum disorder have few, if any, opportunities. Whether it’s the fear of outbreaks of behavior or lack of understanding of the people around them, autism parents struggle to enroll their child in mainstream summer programs. Parents worry about their child’s ability to communicate their needs as well as the staff’s ability to understand and meet those needs.
This absence of opportunity was the impetus for The Unumb Center for Neurodevelopment’s summer camp, Camp U. Camp U will be held the week of July 25th, 2022 at Camp Cole.
Camp U will deliver a summer camp experience to children and adolescents with autism in the Midlands. The Unumb Center’s team uses the principles of applied behavior analysis (ABA) to promote participation in camp activities including fishing, boating, swimming, horsemanship, arts and crafts, and social skills building. Campers are given natural opportunities to make choices, develop conversation skills, solve problems, connect with same-age peers, and practice independence.
Nobody embodies the true meaning of Camp U quite like our friend Jaedyn and her family.
Jaedyn began to receive services at The Unumb Center when it opened in 2010. Through ABA, Jaedyn is learning to combat echolalia and participate in conversation, answer basic questions, request attention, make purchases, and be independent.
“Full disclosure: our family had so much fun on Unumb Center Field Day last year that we stole the entire show,” said Kem Green, Jaedyn’s mom. “I knew that my daughter could do many different things in a structured environment like The Unumb Center where she was given lots of verbal or physical prompts, but I wondered if she would be able to generalize and display those skills without prompts in a setting so different and unstructured.”
“We watched in awe as Jaedyn was able to request help when she needed it, talk about what was going on around her, choose her preferred activities instead of repeating the first or last option listed – she made choices. She interacted with her friends from The Unumb Center. She even forged new friendships without being prompted. To know that Jaedyn has friends… it’s just really big.”
“Jaedyn used to spend a lot of time in her room wanting to be alone. Now she enters your room and wants to be a part of what’s going on. She wants to play. She wants to talk. It helps us appreciate the smaller things in life. We are so apt to think about all these big things but when you have a child with autism… it teaches you to appreciate what so many others overlook and take for granted.”
“Opportunities for people like Jaedyn are very limited, especially in our hometown of Orangeburg. We travel many miles to and from The Unumb Center each day for autism services that are just not available or just not the same anywhere else. Jaedyn has developed and become independent in ways that she never otherwise would have. It’s so important that our community, our neighbors, our colleagues, our families, and our friends support Camp U, because we just aren’t given opportunities like this all the time. I know Jaedyn will come back from Camp U a different person than when she left.”
As unique and neurodiverse as the Camp U experience will be, it will offer a foundation every child deserves to relate to: the summer camp experience.
Your support at Happy Glampers will make Camp U possible.
Happy Glampers is a night of festive generosity on Tuesday, May 17th at 5:00pm at Stone River.
Enjoy hors d'oeuvres, libations, live entertainment by Chris Reed, and Stone River's incredible views of the Congaree and downtown Columbia. Attendees will have the opportunity to shop at our canteen-style camp store and participate in raffles throughout the evening to make Camp U possible.