Camps for kids with autism
Summer day camps serve many purposes: keeping kids active and entertained, allowing them to try new sports and make new friends. But for parents who have kids with autism or who are on the spectrum, finding the right camp can be a challenge. Although many mainstream camps will accept children with autism, the experience is not ideal for every child.
“It’s very difficult to integrate these kids into a typical camp, even though everybody wants to,” said Lynne Pronman, a camp director with 30 years of experience working with special-needs children. “For example, the special-needs kids can end up being picked last for sports teams and wind up feeling different. It makes it stressful for everyone.”
Pronman runs Trails of Summer, one of the programs in the Montreal area catering specifically to children with autism, developmental delays and other special needs. Typically, these camps provide support, low staff-to-camper ratio and individualized programming to ensure that each of the campers has a fun summer.
Pronman said that being in a setting with a group of peers at a similar level can be extremely beneficial and parents often tell her that the children begin sleeping and eating better and being more open to new experiences. She says that 95 per cent of her campers return.
Sharon McCarry, director of Coco’s Place day camp, says she feels that these kids benefit from being in a supportive group environment with other kids outside of school or a strictly therapeutic environment. “It’s very important for them to be able to socialize and to feel like just a kid,” she said. “Not a special kid, just a kid.”
The following four camps offer a summer program for kids with autism. Parents are encouraged to contact the directors to discuss whether the camp is right for their child.
Trails of Summer
Trails of Summer day camp focuses on developing life and social skills through play. With a staff-to-camper ratio of no more than 1:3 (more often 1:1), and a pre-assessment, the camp experience is tailored to suit each child’s needs.“We make the program fit the kid, not the other way around,” Pronman said. “The goal is to give every child a magical summer; it’s a place for them to shine and to be what and who they want to be.”
Campers, each according to their capabilities, participate in sports, arts, music, special events, water fun and more. Trails of Summer is located at 166 Sommerhill in D.D.O. Camps are for children ages 3 to 12 and 13 to 15.
For more information, call 514-684-0333 or visit trailsofsummer.com.
Coco’s Camp is a Montreal West-based camp where 4- to 8-year-olds on the autism spectrum or who have language delays and learning disabilities can work on building social and communication skills under the supervision of qualified educators and therapists in a quiet setting that focuses on fun. Each session has its own theme, such as science and space, fun and fitness, dinosaurs and more.
Run by Coco’s Place pre-school team, the camp offers swimming, arts, outdoor fun, and games that target emotional capacity, communication abilities, independence, and gross and fine motor skills. ASD campers have the option of ABA therapy in the afternoons.
Siblings and those without a special need can also enrol. This camp is best suited for higher-functioning children, and those who are verbal.
For more information, call 514-994-5018 or visit cocosplace.ca.
Camera Roll Productions
Camera Roll Productions offers two- and three-week video and film production day camps. During the session, campers will pitch, film and produce their own short feature films in a real studio with the help of a production crew. In the fall, a red-carpet première will showcase the final works of all the groups.
Founders Liam O’Rourke and Dan Tenveen began Camera Roll Productions five years ago with the goal of providing social opportunities and creative outlets for kids with autism. Tenveen said that every session allows campers to “share ideas, be creative, and have fun.” Camp is open to youth between the ages of 12 and 30, with most campers being in their teens.
For more information, call 514-318-6352 or visit camerarollproductions.com.
Tellit-Dire is a speech and language therapy summer camp for children between the ages of 3 and 8. A speech and language pathologist (S-LP) leads each group, with help from graduate interns in the same field. Campers come with a diverse set of diagnoses including speech and language delays, developmental delays and social-pragmatics disorders with many children on the autism spectrum.
Campers participate in language-based activities, such as circle time, role playing, storytelling and vocabulary and grammar-based activities around a central theme, such as five senses, emotions or occupations. Most of the activities are hands-on and they include gardening, cooking and dancing. Camp also includes weekly art, music and magic shows.
“Campers are able to experience the joys of summer camp while continuing to work on their speech and language,” director Pilar Monchi said. “Summer camp creates an environment where children are encouraged to apply their social language skills to real-life situations.”
The camp is located at 6525 Decarie Blvd. (corner Plamondon), Suite 310 in Montreal.
For more information, call 514-731-1411 or visit tellitdire.com.