For parents of teens with autism spectrum disorder, the summer months can be particularly challenging. During the school year, structured education plans and facilitated peer interaction opportunities allow these teens to stay engaged and practice critical social skills that they are often unable to gain naturally. The likelihood of regression increases if the communication tools learned during the year are not reinforced during summer break.
The Help Group’s Kids Like Me Program, which provides after-school classes, clubs, camps, weekend social and family activities for children and teens with autism and other challenges, has created two summer camp programs to address the unique needs of this population. Teens on the Go is a fun and exciting social skills camp that takes participants on daily trips and adventures around Los Angeles, and Teens on the Go Travel Camp features 6-day, 5-night trips to popular California destinations. Both camps serve teens ages 13 to 17, are led by highly trained professionals, and are designed to foster peer interaction, communication, and friendship building.
“In a short period of time, we see an increase in social interaction and the cultivation of new friendships,” said Nicole Webb, MS, Kids Like Me Program Director. “Our teens feel a sense of belonging, and many of them have commented on how nice it is to socialize with peers they can relate to in an environment free of teasing and bullying.”
Past Teens on the Go outings have included visits to the Santa Monica Pier, Grammy Museum, California Science Center, and the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a camper favorite. This year, the Teens on the Go Travel Camp will tour San Francisco and the California Coast. Money management and independent living skills are added benefits teens can gain from participating in travel camp.
“Teens on the spectrum tend to be rigid and often get stuck in their day-to-day routine to the point where they and their parents believe it’s not possible for them to engage in certain activities or have more normalized experiences,” said Webb. “Travel camp provides them with a safe environment and an experienced staff that not only pushes them outside of their comfort zones, but also allows them to become increasingly independent and successful.”