A full spectrum of summer fun

Past summer camp activities include martial arts demonstrations.

Past summer camp activities include martial arts demonstrations.

— Although summer is a few months off, many parents are looking into summer camp options for their children. Whether full-day, half-day or overnight, the options are varied, but not always for those parents who are looking for programs for their children who have special needs connected to autism.

While there are many programs for kids on the autism spectrum through private camps and various organizations, the Town of Clifton Park is one of only a few municipal programs in the Capital District.

This summer will mark the town’s third year in providing half-day camp opportunities within their regular camp programs for kids who have been diagnosed with autism. It’s an integrated type of program, much like classrooms that have special needs children mainstreamed with children who don’t require special help.

The half-day program is offered for children in grades K-5, and groups of campers are determined by age and enrollment. The program will run the weeks of July 16 and July 23 and take place from 9 a.m. to noon.

Myla Kramer of the town’s Office of Parks and Recreation and Community Affairs said that her office worked with social worker and autisms pecialist Steve Szalowski of Spectrum Life Strategies in Saratoga Springs on development of the program. The need for such a program was realized after inquiries from parents started being addressed to the office for this kind of opportunity about five years ago, she said.

“Almost every year we had an inquiry from at least one parent. Iran it by Scott Hughes and Phil Barrett, and then got Steve on board. …The recommendation was to keep it to a half day. We want it to be successful for the kids and be the best experience for them,” said Kramer.

The autism spectrum is a broad one and encompasses children diagnosed with mild autism all the way through to those with more severe forms of the disorder. Understanding what your child needs within this type of setting is key.

“It’s a great entry level program. The question is, ‘how much support does your child need?’ The goal is to make them feel confident and get the kids into a typical atmosphere,” said Szalowski .

Enrollment for the program is increasing, and Kramer says that feedback from parents and kids is very positive.

“We love being able to do this. It’s a win-win and we’re getting a lot out of it,” said Kramer.

Check cliftonpark.org for applications and details. Registrations will be accepted through May 25.

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