2017-03-02 / Community News

Camp available for kids with autism

The city of Biddeford and city councilors announced a new summer camp in Biddeford for children with autism spectrum disorder. Councilor Robert Quattrone, who spearheaded the pilot program, said, “The idea arose in August 2016 as a complete collaboration between the Biddeford School Department, the University of New England and the Autism Society of Maine and nothing happens without all parties on board.”

UNE has developed an academic course for undergraduate students in the health, wellness and occupational studies program about autism. Students are enrolled in the course and will serve as camp counselors, providing 1:1 care and support for the children. The UNE students receive course credits as well as handson experience with the children. The camp concept was developed and is being implemented with help from the UNE Occupational Therapy Department and Community Therapy Center.

The camp is modeled after Camp Summit at the University of Farmington, a program that has been working with children with autism spectrum disorder for 14 years. It was developed with the UMF Department of Psychology and the Autism Society of Maine.

Biddeford Schools will provide the use of John F. Kennedy Memorial School, the same place where the city holds its Safari Camp summer recreational programs. Safari Camp and Finding the Pieces will run concurrently, providing a chance for children to commingle in a safe, fun and inclusive setting. The city will also provide transportation for field trips, which will be extended to include some children from Dayton to attend as an added benefit to the community.

The Sanford Elks will provide the majority of the funding for the camp. Its Autism Fundraising Committee works throughout the year to raise money for Autism and has been looking for an appropriate beneficiary in York County. Autism Society of Maine provides nonprofit status for the camp. Donations earmarked for Finding the Pieces summer program will go toward supplies, field trips and up to three paid camp employee positions.

The camp will be held 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Aug. 7 through Aug. 18 during the two weeks immediately following the Extended School Year program.

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