Summer camp is traditionally a rite of passage, allowing kids to explore nature and make new friends while parents get some much-needed rest and relaxation.
But one independent school is offering a unique summer program for autistic children who would otherwise miss out on the experience.
Elizabeth Buckley School’s MusArt program takes children ages 7 to 11 into nature while teaching them critical social and communication skills through storytelling, music, art and science.
The program is aimed at moderately high to high-functioning children with autism, so many have higher verbal skills, said Laura Lane, behaviour interventionist and special needs educational assistant at the school.
“I’ve been working with children for quite a while and have a lot of joy in doing that. I thought this program would be a nurturing space and environment to create a sense of connection and positive feeling,” she said.
Each week of camp will include main themes focused around the four elements of nature.
The program is facilitated by Lane and a behaviour support worker and has a maximum of five participants.
“A lot of it is to have a fun summer experience for these children,” Lane said. “They’ll probably teach me a lot, to be honest.”
Autistic children take time to learn simple social cues, and can benefit significantly from social games in a therapeutic context, she added.
“You might say hello and might not get a response right away or at all. That’s one skill we work on and explain why that’s important. In their world, it doesn’t necessarily make sense. … Children with autism, it’s hard at first to compromise and let go of that control.”
For more details about MusArt, call the school at 250-995-6425.