The summer before ninth grade, I decided to try something different. I opted out of attending a fun summer camp or lazily lounging around at my swim club. Instead, I volunteered at a day camp for children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and while I loved doing so, I couldn’t help but feeling disappointed. The camp had a limited number of qualified staff members, the children didn’t have many resources available to them, and it ran like a plain, old, ordinary and boring school day.
If I were given $50,000, I would create a special camp for students with ASD. It wouldn’t run like school: it would be more like the magical day camps I went to as a child. There would be horses, and a swimming pool, and an arts and crafts center, and a place to just lounge.
With my experience, children with ASD aren’t any less than children without the disorder. They need time to be social, time with animals, and opportunities to just laugh and play too. In fact, these activities can actually be extremely beneficial to their mental health. They would get more out of a seemingly superficial camp than one where they’re forced to do their normal school work.
While $50,000 is a significant amount of money, it couldn’t cover all the costs. I would recruit a local camp to donate their grounds for a week or two in the summer. Thus the investment money could go toward scholarships for the kids, paychecks for qualified staff members, any extra expenses for housing the horses, and getting supplies for arts and crafts.
Children with ASD are just children. They deserve to have a camp experience they can enjoy. They deserve to laugh, and play and be themselves in a relaxing, social environment.