The latest Camp Akeela Circular is ready for your reading pleasure. It announces several exciting changes being planned for Summer 2015, a collection of Summer 2014 photos, and some big news about upcoming Akeela Winter Weekends!
The new Camp Akeela Circular is here! This newsletter includes important information and should be read carefully by all enrolled camp families.
Our Summer 2014 tour dates have been set!
If you’re thinking about sending your child to camp in 2015, we strongly recommend taking a road trip this summer to see some camps “in action”. Touring a camp during their summer season is the best way to get feel for it — and answer the critical question of whether it’s the right community for your child. In addition to seeing facilities, you’ll see activities, meet campers and staff, and spend some quality time with the camp directors.
At Camp Akeela, we offer tours on select weekend dates throughout the summer. If you’re interested in coming to see us, please contact our office (866-680-4744) to schedule a visit.
Beyond Akeela is all new this summer and it’s going to rock! These newsletters include more detailed itineraries, introductions to Beyond Akeela’s senior staff members and Frequently Asked Questions for parents. Enjoy!
Hot off the presses: the most recent edition of The Akeela Circular, our camp newsletter. This edition includes a note from Debbie and Eric about how new experiences can be difficult but also help us grow and enjoy life more. That segues into a piece about how campers can start preparing now for a great summer at camp. We’ve also included a variety of previews for Summer 2014: exciting facility upgrades, lists of returning campers and staff, and quick profiles of many Senior Staff members. That’s not all, so check it out!
We invite you to join us at one of our upcoming information sessions:
- Saturday, January 25 in White Plains, NY
- Saturday, February 1 in Dedham, MA
These are casual events in which we meet families who are interested in learning more about Camp Akeela. We show lots of photos of camp, talk about a typical daily schedule, and answer parent’s & children’s questions.
Please call Debbie at 866-680-4744 or email info at campakeela dot com for details.
A mom from Akeela Family Camp recently posted a research study about individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome and empathy. (The 2009 study by Henry and Kamila Markram of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne is referenced here, here and elsewhere). While the research is a few years old, we believe it is extremely relevant.
We have always said that the notion that our campers (and those like them) lack empathy is absolutely bogus. We have seen time and time again that our campers are extremely caring individuals who are capable of understanding the emotions of others and showing them compassion. There are times at camp when we believe that a typically developing child would not be as insightful in an emotional moment as our children are. We had a 11-year-old camper this past summer who made it his goal to help support all of the campers he met who were feeling homesick. There were many times when we would see this boy with his arm around a peer and overhear him saying something like, “It’s OK to feel sad; I felt sad my first summer too”.
Our experience is reflective of the Markrams’ research conclusions: that those with ASD are actually hypersensitive to the emotional experiences of those around them. That “over-experiencing” of others’ emotions can be very overwhelming and can create the individual to shut down or escape into their own world.
We believe it is imperative that we not assume how others experience the world. We’ve often told parents that our kids work harder than most performing everyday tasks; it’s as if they are trying to interact with environmental stimuli while simultaneously performing long division at hearing background static. It’s hard to do so many things at once. When our campers “shut down” or retreat into themselves for a few minutes, we don’t assume they are disinterested. Instead, we suspect they are taking a moment to organize their experience. Although our campers do not always know how to express themselves in the exact ways that society expects, they deserve to be recognized as people filled with genuine feelings, rich emotional lives and yes, empathy.
– Debbie and Eric
We had so much fun putting together these slideshows from last summer. Camp really is the greatest place in the world!
I have begun reading the book Homesick and Happy by Michael Thompson, PhD, and just twenty pages in, the book has resonated with my life tremendously. Thompson discusses the importance of experiencing the “magic of camp” as a young person and how camp experiences can foster independence and confidence that can’t be developed at home. Campers form incredible bonds and learn so much about themselves and others when they are away at camp.
Although I had many things going for me through my high school and college years, I never was a very confident person. When I came to Akeela in 2009 as a cabin counselor & accounting intern, I had no idea that it would completely change my life. Four summers later, it is so apparent how camp made me a much more confident and happy person. Camp introduced me to lifelong friends, challenged me to step out of my comfort zone, and has given me some of my most positive and happy life experiences. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing several campers come back for all the summers I’ve been at Akeela, and it’s easy to see the “magic of camp” has had the same affect on their lives.
I know it can be hard as a young person to take the leap and go away from home to camp. Growing up, I couldn’t stand to be away from home for 3 ½ weeks, let alone one week! However, going to a sleep away camp can be a magical and life changing experience in any person’s life. Homesick and Happy has emphasized the importance of going to camp as a young person and I could not agree more!
I’ll update the blog with more of my thoughts on Homesick and Happy as I continue through the book!
P.S. – I’m thrilled to be working year round with Debbie & Eric now for Akeela. I look forward to getting to know you all a little better throughout the next couple years!
John Elder Robison made some waves this week when he publicly resigned from his position on the Science and Treatment Board of Autism Speaks. (See his blog about this decision and his letter of resignation here: http://jerobison.blogspot.com/2013/11/i-resign-my-roles-at-autism-speaks.html.) After reading this, I had many thoughts about our campers and our community.
I can only imagine what it feels like to be labeled as “disabled”. In our six summers running Akeela, I have learned that our campers are extremely “abled” and have many talents to celebrate. Do our campers (and their families) struggle? Are there difficult moments, days, weeks, years? Are there challenges that seem small and others that are life-altering and terrible scary? Yes – of course. However, in order for our campers to reach their enormous potential, they must be shown that they are capable of achieving their goals.
What has been most profound for me, as a director at Camp Akeela, has been watching how powerful a community can be. Our campers, who are often left on the outside (by individual peers, by society at large, or by institutions that liken them to the “gravely ill”) thrive when they are part of a community – when they truly feel accepted and valued for who they are. I wish that more people could see our campers at Akeela so that they could witness their successes. Of course I support organizations that help advance science and look towards treatments that can help make the lives of those living with autism easier/better/happier. I just wish those same organizations were also honoring and supporting the communities which celebrate the same individuals.
I want to honor JER’s leadership as he champions the rights of the ASD community. He is certainly an example of the amazing contributions those on the spectrum make to our larger world community.