- Water Play! The sensory challenges of going for a swim may initially be overwhelming for your child, after all there is a lot of transitioning from dry to wet and wet to dry with a lot of grey in between, but there are plenty of ways to ease into swimming or otherwise incorporate water. Children who are just getting used to being wet can sit on the edge of a pool or body of water at the summer camp (think sandy, gently lapping shores of a lake or pond), perhaps wrapped in a wet towel to initially get to know the feeling of being wet. Water provides stimulation for multiple senses, which engages any learner, let along children with learning differences. The sound of rushing water can be soothing, the experience of the water moving around a child and the resistance against their muscles can increase coordination and muscle tone. Children don’t necessarily realize they’re getting exercise while swimming, yet the activity is engaging of numerous muscle groups and increases lung capacity. Group water sports and challenges, such as races, kayaking, jumping off peers, playing games like “king/queen of the rock”, all incorporate fun, exercise, problem solving, social skills, and relationship building.
Aside from swimming, playing with water is a highly sensory activity. Camps can build boat race courses, utilize pool noodles to direct water, or conduct science experiments to watch as water reacts with various objects and changes color. If it is a rainy day, getting out with fellow campers to splash in puddles and feel clothing change from dry to wet is again full of sensory experiences and hours of play.
- Develop a new routine. Number two on our list of the five best summer camp activities for your autistic child is learning, and being a part of developing, a new routine. We all know how critical schedules and routine can be for any developing child, let alone those with learning differences. School inherently provides a strict schedule that can be relied upon day in and day out, something which helps children with Autism thrive. Autism Summer camp can provide a similar experience in that campers who attend are very much a part of developing, learning and understanding their summer camp routine. Children love to be involved in decision making and activities with adults, therefore campers can be part of the decisions surrounding how their bunks awake in the morning, sequence of events proceeding lights out, needed items for transitioning between activities, and the ability to speak up should a day feel too overwhelming. Camp counselors at summer camps for children with Autism are attuned to the needs of children with learning differences and work with them to ensure understanding of the new schedule, so that campers can reliably know what to expect day in and day out. This helps to develop a safe and nurturing environment, free from the stress of not knowing what’s to come. Many camps also incorporate visual schedules which children can be a part of creating and laying out to demonstrate a knowledge of the day’s events. Carrying out these new schedules can give campers a sense of accomplishment and boost confidence, knowing they are able to overcome such big challenges and adapt successfully.
- Get outdoors! Summer camp is all about CAMPING! And what does that conjure for you? Images of sitting around a campfire, walking in the woods, taking in pristine vistas, learning wilderness skills, falling asleep under the brightest stars, filling your lungs with crisp air, getting dirty running around outside, and feeling the sun fall warmly upon your face. The images are endless but they all incorporate nature, outdoors, soaking up the best of being outside. This may be a completely new experience for campers, but it is sure to be one they will not soon forget. Nature is full of new smells, sounds, textures, visual sensations, and feelings. Just taking a nature walk in the woods can include listening to the wind rustle the leaves, picking out new plants and labeling them, observing animals in their habitats, listening to the sounds of the meandering creek or tweeting bird, feeling the air in your lungs rush through your body as you push to climb higher or walk further. For a child with Autism, pointing out these sensations and allowing the camper to experience them as guided by a camp counselor can be incredibly engaging. Children with Autism often do not get the physical exercise typical to children their age and thus getting outdoors can help to improve motor coordination, increase confidence and otherwise build on athletic abilities.
- Arts and Crafts! There are a variety of sensory activities designed for campers with Autism to complete during their camp stay. Calm down bottles filled with gooey, glittery, multi-colored objects of different densities can be engaging to make and then subsequently calming to use in play. Utilizing objects found on nature walks can continue the learning process and help to take something from one setting to another, to support retention of the experience. Children can look forward to sharing their walks with family and friends via crafts completed afterwards.
- Play a Game! Last but not least of the five best summer camp activities for your Autistic child is engaging in a game. Camps have variety of games, from cooperative ones such as Camp Olympics, to solo-friendly such as card games. Games teach children how to take turns, understand rules and consequences, learn to win (and lose) gracefully, develop and enhance focus, and hone attention as they problem-solve various strategies to win. Talisman Camps offers campers the chance to build their own game and teach it to the other campers and staff at a group gathering. This encourages creativity along with team building.
No matter your decision of which activity to attempt from the 5 best summer camp activities for your Autistic child, your son or daughter is sure to have a memorable time. Talking about summer camp activities in advance can help your child prepare for the experience and set expectations accordingly. We encourage you to visit directories of camps such as those found at http://find.acacamps.org/ to identify possible camp options for your family and then explore each for the best fit. We’d love to talk with you further about the sessions at Talisman Camps, contact us today!