Social Skills Building, Friendships and Summer Fun Combine for a Great Experience at Connections Camp: Guest Blog by Anne Marz

I asked one of BNI’s own staff, Anne Marz, who is the Director of Behavioral Health, to write a guest blog about Connections Camp that is held from the end of June through the beginning of August. It is an excellent program to help children develop age appropriate social skills through fun activities while making friends.


Socialization is not just a fun aspect of daily living, but an important characteristic of building relationships, communicating with others and achieving success. Social Skills are a feature of everything we do, but can be more challenging for children on the Autism Spectrum.

So it is not surprising that over 10 years ago, a group of parents came to me and said that their sons and daughters wanted to go to camp but had been unsuccessful at the local day camps. The question they posed was “What could the Barber National Institute offer them”? And so began Connections Camp!

connections camp 3

Connections Camp serves children and adolescents ages 5 through 18 with an Autism diagnosis. This year, it will be held at the Erie Day School on 1372 West 6th Street, Wednesday June 26th through Tuesday August 6th. The goal of Connections Camp is to help the campers develop age appropriate social skills. Classroom lessons are developed around weekly themes.  The campers then have the opportunity to practice these skills through fun, therapeutic activities, play and community outings. The themes include:

connections camp

All About You and Camp Safety

Communication/Conversation Skills



Thinking Feeling

Coping Skills/Anger Management

Embracing Differences

Connections Camp is free for Erie County residents. The hours of operation are 9:00 am – 3:00. Before and after camp care is offered from 8:00 am – 9:00 am and 3:00 pm – 5:00 pm.  Applications are available on the Barber National Institute website and camp staff are available to answer questions at 814-969-2588 or

connections camp 2

I recall our very first year when one of the Moms, with tears in her eyes, came to me on the last day of camp and said that Connections Camp was the first time that her daughter had friends. Hearing that, I knew that we would continue offering Connections Camp every summer as long as there continued to be the need.

Connections Camp is quickly filling up quickly but a few openings still remain. If your child has Autism, and his/her behavior is appropriate for a summer camp environment with a 1-5 adult to child ratio, check out Connections Camp. Lots of progress through lots of fun starts here!

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