The KOC Blog

Call It Respite... and watch it become life skills

by Jane Isbister | Jun 11, 2014

Making friends, paddling a kayak, playing basketball, exploring nature with your cabin group, cleaning the dinner table, fishing, tetherball with a partner, and singing around the campfire... These are some of the many things campers do at the Kinark Outdoor Centre. It looks, sounds and feels like many other summer camps. Only, there is a difference. This summer for the ninth year in a row, all the campers attending will be diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum, and most will attend as a part of a broader initiative to provide respite for ASD families. Of course we do not tell the campers or the parents that this is respite, because it is way too much fun and there is far too much learning going on for it to be just respite.

For many of these campers it is there first time staying overnight without their parents. Other firsts include: making a friend, looking after their belongings, participating in an activity with a partner, doing chores as a group, or trying things like canoeing, climbing and fishing.

For a number of campers who come to the Kinark Outdoor Centre, the success they have at camp transfers back to home and community. There is a continued willingness and confidence around trying new things. Campers also continue to use and practice the new skills they have acquired.

                “He came home and wanted to show me how you make a pizza."
                 “She put away all her clothes without me asking”

With the proper pre-camp preparation, a well trained staff team, and additional resources the summer camp experience holds the same potential for those on the ASD spectrum as it does for their peers and siblings.

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