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Our mission is to encourage social growth, independence, and self-esteem in youth with autism spectrum disorders through a quality, overnight camp experience located in the greater Kansas City area.
Studies show the benefits of overnight camp opportunities include: creating a greater sense of independence as youth learn to do more things on their own without the help of their parents or caretaker, connecting with individuals who have similar interests, having a sense of belonging, feeling free to "be who you truly are," increasing social skills, and trying new things.
For youth with autism spectrum disorder, who require additional supports and structured activities, opportunities for overnight camp experiences are sparse. A lack of recreational services and overnight camp opportunities for these youth puts a greater strain on families who often already feel the stress of their situations. Many campers come to our camp having never spent the night away from home; many parents have never had the opportunity to have an evening out, let alone a night or three of "respite" away from a child who may require additional attention.
As the only program of its kind in the greater Kansas City region, Camp Encourage combines the benefits of an overnight camp opportunity with the support, encouragement, and personalized services needed for youth with ASD; creating a place for our youth where they are free to be who they are, learn, grow, and enjoy a "traditional" camp experience. Additionally, we provide parents, siblings and other family members with much-needed respite for four days and three nights.
Key components that make Camp Encourage unique include, but are not limited to:
- The teaching of social and emotional competency,
- Sensory supports and visual strategies embedded throughout all activities,
- Positive behavioral supports,
- The nearly all-volunteer staff, who give over 15,000 hours a year to make camp happen,
- The inclusion of same-aged peer models,
- Adventure-based programming such as a ropes course and/or zip-lining,
- Traditional camp activities such as horseback riding, archery, fishing, swimming, hayride, art activities, and singing by the campfire,
- Activities tailored around the individual campers’ interests (past offerings have included yoga, photography, Star Wars or Yu-gi-oh tournaments, lego building, and more), and
- Dietary accommodations for campers with special dietary needs.
- Alissa Workman
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