Did you know that OUCARES offers summer programs to teach life skills to children and teens on the autism spectrum?
For six weeks this summer, a small group of children and teens on the autism spectrum participated in a day camp program at Meadows Elementary School in Avondale. Campers learned life skills and made life long bonds.
“What I’ve liked the most is watching the friendships that have formed,” said Kristin Ashley who worked on the staff for this program. “Campers are making arrangements outside of camp to meet up with each other again.”
There were three summer camp sessions throughout this summer. The first theme was the universe, the second theme was family, and the third theme was mythology. Campers were also exposed to the community, visiting a local Meijer, a Walgreens, and the Detroit Zoo among other places.
“We wanted them to have a better understanding of what jobs were out there for them,” said Ashley. “So each place we went to we kind of touched on different jobs and the training needed…just being able to function independently in their adult life.”
Campers also learned valuable social skills so they could handle conflict in an appropriate manner.
“We’ve done a lot of work this summer in handling anger and frustration,” said Ashley.
During the last session of the program, campers and staff brainstormed together, creating the script for their mythology skit. The creativity of the campers was evident as well as some great group dynamics.
“When they started this, they were silent and two (campers) were just mad and they wanted nothing to do with it. So (we have seen) a big improvement over where they started,” said Ashley.
Midway through the day after lunch, the social skills instructor Amy Pecktol held an activity. Campers and staff would pass a ball of yarn from one camper to another, each holding onto the string after answering the same question: “What were you thinking about on the first day of camp?” Answers ranged from meeting to people to cooking tacos.
By the end of that session, a shape was made with the string. After cutting the string, each camper was given a piece of the string as a talisman, carrying the memories from camp.
During each day, the campers would all participate in cooking a meal for everyone.
“Everybody really enjoyed the cooking, said Bryan Haffner, who worked on the day camp staff. “Maybe after they have learned some basic knowledge here they can take it home and work with their parents and be able to take some responsibility in the kitchen with their family.”
Teacher Krystal Renton worked as a staff member with the day camp as well.
“It’s been a really great summer,” said Renton.
As the camp ended, enthusiasm was shown from the campers about attending the program again next year.
“Everybody has had gains in their own way,” said Haffner. “I hope they have social confidence when they return back to school and their day-to-day lives.”