Aug. 8, 2014
A special camp is Charlottesville is giving kids on autism spectrum a chance to hang out and learn together in a fun and welcoming environment.
For one week each summer, the Virginia Institute of Autism's (VIA) camp program helps kids with difficulties interacting socially while many of the campers have autism, it's not a requirement.
“A lot of these kids who are in our camp don't need intensive support,” said VIA Director of Outpatient Services Emily Callahan. “They are doing really well academically, but when it comes to lunch time they sit in the library or the cafeteria because they are not comfortable asking to sit with someone or initiate a conversation."
Callahan says that the camp gives the kids a chance to be around others like them, outside of a school environment.
“It's really really cool to see them having fun in a non-judgmental environment and be able to have them target and work on skills together in a place where everyone is similar to them," Callahan said,
For the campers, the program is just a chance to have fun with kids who get them. For Lucas Cropp, it's a no brainer in the school versus camp debate.
“I'm gonna have to go with camp,” Cropp said. “We have a smaller class here at summer camp and video games."
Thirteen-year-old Dustin Stage says using the skills he's learning in camp helps him tackle other tasks.
“Whenever I need help, or I am bored, I go to me friends," Stage said. "This camp is great everybody else should come here
Kids come from as far away as West Virginia to attend the camp. Counselors say it is so popular because, despite the increase in autism spectrum disorders, resources are limited, especially in more rural areas.
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