Camp Can Do
More than S’mores and Sing-alongs
Writer / Tonja Talley
|Facts on Autism
April is Autism Awareness Month.
Information given by Special Services Johnson County Schools
2004: 50 students in Johnson County had been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.
2014: 534 students in Johnson County struggle with ASD. Of these students, 168 students are from Center Grove.
Information given by Amanda Cooper, CCD founder:
1. The biggest misconception about people with autism is they are seen as intellectually, emotionally and mentally disabled.
2. ASD is actually a neurological disorder that affects communication — both expressively and receptively.
Information given by Dr. Michael Brody, IU Health Physicians Family Medicine, father of a teen with ASD
1. Some individuals on the autism spectrum have a dangerously high pain tolerance.
2. ASD toddlers lack the self-preservation to know looming dangers compared with other toddlers, e.g., stairs or roadways.
3. If the individual can actually feel the pain, he or she might not know how to communicate it.
4. ASD individuals fascinate themselves with one topic until all facts are realized.
5. ASD individuals will have delayed speech, slower speech or inappropriate response to a conversation.
Camp Can Do Contact Information
10-14 age group
A $100 deposit is due by May 15, 2014, with the remaining amount due prior to camp.
Camp Can Do was created to help empower preteens and teens on the autism spectrum with skill sets for the future. CCD founder Amanda Cooper says, “Autism numbers are on the rise. Building a skill set for these children needs to begin at a young age so they can be active, independent members of the community.”
The four weekday camps enable autistic preteens and teens ages 10 to 18 an opportunity to continue learning over summer break. The camps will be available in two-week sessions. The first session encompasses the weeks of June 16 and June 23, while the second session incorporates the weeks of July 7 and July 14. Camper days include fun-filled activities from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Led by a trained staff, camp counselors split the campers into smaller groups. Open to 15 campers per session, the middle school program, for ages 10 to 14, breaks up daily into three groups. This allows closer assistance from the counselors, with a counselor-camper ratio of 3-to-5. In the high school program, for ages 15 to 18, CCD allows 10 campers per session. Broken into two groups, their counselor-camper ratio becomes 1-to-5 and includes help from an assistant director.
Daily, each group rotates through six activities: arts and crafts, cooking, mad science, games, sports and music. These activities feature a variety of life skills in a safe, motivating learning environment. In the cooking activity, for instance, the campers learn how to follow directions, measure ingredients and clean up after themselves. When veteran camper Jack Abbott, 14, was asked about the six activities, his response came easy. “At Camp Can Do, we cook, color and do mad science. One of my favorite parts was making the Angry Bird in art.”
Throughout the day, campers can be seen beaming with pride as highly coveted camp dollars are presented to them. How do they earn the dollars? By completing an activity or exhibiting positive behavior, said Emily Behnke, CCD director. These dollars then pay for snacks and community field trips. Through the expenditures, campers become exposed to budgeting money and practicing communication skills.
Fridays are slated for community field trips. Excitement overflows from the campers as they experience ordering from a restaurant menu, paying for admission and communicating with others. This year’s schedule highlights trips to Hi-Way Lanes on June 20, the Franklin Skate Club on July 11, and Edinburgh’s Aquatic Center on June 27 and July 18. Campers are also introduced to the public transportation service Access Johnson County.
Austin Humphrey, 11, enthusiastically explained last year’s field trips. “I enjoy social activities. The counselors are very nice, and I like my time with them. Last year we went swimming, bowling and to Rascal’s Fun Zone. My favorite game was the Ninja Swap.”
To get a parent’s point of view about CCD, I recently chatted with Austin’s mom, Center Grove resident Linda Humphrey. Her son has gained great strides in the areas of confidence and conversation, thanks in part to CCD’s staff. “In the past, if Austin came upon the pressure of time constraints, meltdowns would happen due to frustration,” Humphrey recalled. “But now, for example, he may be asked to ‘tie his shoe,’ and Austin can do it. But he needs someone to guide his hands through the motion and time to process the instructions. The camp counselors have given him both, boosting his confidence and keeping the frustration to a minimum.”
The high school program builds on the skills and confidence gained in the middle school program. In the cooking activity, the teens create a shopping list using the cooking ingredients needed from the younger group’s program. Using Access Johnson County, further exposing them to public transportation, the teens head to a nearby grocery store to purchase their items. Cooper says this fun activity further emphasizes how to stay within a given budget. To develop leadership skills, these older campers help lead younger campers through the sports and game activities. Other responsibilities include staffing the camp store for daily snack sales and Friday shopping.
Behnke said, “The camp staff strives to give the campers a calm and comfortable place to thrive. Our hope is the campers will improve their social skills, as well as develop life skills, to help them gain independence. While doing that, we stay active, get creative, learn a lot and have lots of fun.”
Yes, Camp Can Do is more than s’mores and singalongs.