Learning and social environments can present unique challenges to children battling Asperger's, autism and other disorders. But as YNN's Matt Hunter reports, for the first time ever in Saratoga Springs, a new camp is meeting their exact needs.
SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – Moments that bring a pure sense of accomplishment and joy don't always come easy for children struggling with Asperger's and autism.
"It's very challenging dealing with children with Asperger's or any autism spectrum disorder,” Lucille Winslow said. “I mean, it affects the entire family. It's just a daily basis, the things you deal with."
Winslow's grandsons, nine-year-old Noah and six-year-old Drew, have both been diagnosed with Asperger's and are both attending Camp TLC this week in Saratoga Springs. Short for "Together Living a Challenge," it's an organization that travels the country setting up camps for children with special needs.
"We pretty much get to do choices of what we want to do,” Noah said Wednesday afternoon. “I like how we have choices. We get to do whatever we want. It's kind of like a free for all."
"It's really based to tune in to all the kids different senses in a less structured environment than what might see at a mainstream camp or at school," said Caroline Baumis, the camp’s executive director.
Changing from day to day, the free camp offers activities ranging from obstacle courses to experimenting with art and music.
"Transitions are very difficult for kids that are on the spectrum,” said Mary Caravella, a special education teacher with Upstate New York Autism Awareness. “So keeping them in that environment so that they're going from one activity to the other really helps them."
Throughout the week, children are encouraged to try new things but are free to choose the activities as they please. It's all in hopes of expanding their comfort zones and allowing them to thrive in a group setting.
“It's not always easy to find those social interaction pieces for children on the spectrum,” Winslow said. “To find something like this that they absolutely love and it's a joy and it meets their needs. It's just been wonderful."
"We get to make new friends and have more fun and meet new people and I just like the feeling of that," Drew said.
This is the second time the camp has come to Saratoga. A special session was held last year for children of backstretch workers.
For more information, visit www.thecamptlc.org or find the organization on Facebook.