Kids with Autism Engage with Fun At Camp FRIEND

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – For most children, attending a summer camp is all about making new friends and engaging in interesting, fun activities. Children with autism attending Camp FRIEND (Finding Rewards In Every New Day), want nothing different.

The day camp held at the Jewish Community Center in Youngstown started 10 years ago and offers students a chance to swim, participate in music and art, make and enjoy snacks, play games, run in the gym or on the playground outside and just enjoy age-appropriate activities.

A counselor watches as campers participate in the art class at Camp FRIEND.
A boy’s project uses masking tape and bingo daubers.

There is at least one support counselor for every two campers, including four board-certified behavior analysts who, with intervention specialists and others, are able to navigate the transitions and unpredictable behaviors that come along with autism.

“I can tell you that for autism parents, summers are long,” says Robin Suzelis, director of the Autism Society of the Mahoning Valley, the organization responsible for the camp. ““It’s hard for parents to work. It’s hard to get a break. The kids need their schedules.”

Pictured at top: A girl works on an art project at the day camp.