For children who go to summer camp, it is all about having fun and interacting with their peers. For others, it is about more than that.
At the Summer Social Skills Camp, sponsored by the Autism Society of Greater Cleveland, a group of about 20 autistic children and other volunteers gather together to spend quality time over the summer months.
Local special education supervisor and teacher Lori and Jim Wotowiec are directors of the camp. Because autism makes it more difficult for children to form social and behavioral relationships, the Wotowiecs wanted to develop a place where the children can practice these skills and form friendships.
Because the camp has peers who do not have autism, they were trained about the disorder ahead of time, so that they would be aware of how to handle a certain situation that may have come up.
Campers attended classes to practice academics, had indoor gym time, group activities, outdoor activities and lunch. Because many problems occur when there is a less structured environment, the peers in the camp who were present were able to provide real-life solutions that would help the children see how to act. These interactions were crucial in letting the autistic children build social and independent living skills.
By providing real situations and social interactions, the children get to practice real life problem solving. Just like any other child, they want to have fun and be accepted. Without the stresses of the classroom, the children can flourish and grow while having fun and gaining confidence.
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