“My child was not successful at the local summer day camps. What can you offer me?” Fourteen years ago a small group of parents of children with high functioning autism/Asperger’s approached me and asked me to help them find a solution to the challenges and obstacles their children were experiencing in the traditional day camp. They were looking for a summer recreation program where their children could be together, have fun and develop friendships. Their children were in inclusive educational placements and progressing well academically but didn’t have friends. Their parents worried that another summer would pass with the children alone at home playing video games or reading books about their special interests. They wanted more.
That is how Connections Camp began in 2000 as a day camp for children ages 5-14 diagnosed with high-functioning autism, Asperger syndrome or pervasive development disorder. Today it is a model program that helps children and teens develop interpersonal skills, manage their emotions and make good decisions. Through the use of social coaching, campers are encouraged to work through difficult social situations and react positively to these challenges.
Today we are announcing a collaboration among the Erie SeaWolves, BNI and the Erie Siebenbuerger. The SeaWolves will offer a baseball clinic at Jerry Uht Park on Tuesday, July 22nd for participants in the Connections Camps. Erie SeaWolves players and coaches will help teach baseball fundamentals such as fielding, throwing, pitching and base running. They will also cover topics such as nutrition, proper stretching and exercise. The goal is for youngsters to take what they learn at the clinic and put it to use on school and neighborhood fields with their friends, classmates or in a league. In addition, to the instruction provided at the Clinic, each child will receive a t-shirt, certificate and a ticket to an Erie SeaWolves game, where they will be recognized on the field before the start of play.
At the close of Connections Camp, the children exchange email addresses, make future social dates and look forward to getting together the following summer. As one child told me, “I don’t have any friends at school but at Connections Camp I have lots.” Definitely a win-win for all of the children involved.
Connections Camp will be held Wednesday, June 25th through Tuesday, July 29th, 2014 from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. daily. Connections Camp will be held in Erie at Gannon University and in Warren County at Youngsville Elementary School. Registration forms are available. Space is limited so sign up today.
If you live outside of the Erie area please visit Autism Speaks for their summer camp directory.