Camp Achieve helps children with autism grow: ‘You are changing their lives in this one summer’

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MUNCIE, Ind. — Autism is the fastest growing developmental disorder, yet it’s the most under-funded according to the Autism Society of Indiana. There’s a free summer camp happening now, that’s dedicated to helping children cope. The skills campers take away will certainly have them achieving new heights.

It’s called Camp Achieve. A camp where 6 to 12-year-old’s are taking part in a cutting edge autism camp. Kids like Marshall Turvey receive life changing support.

“I feel like I’ve learned a lot,” said Turvey, “I’m about to be in sixth grade. It’s good to just go back and feel like a kid again. It just feels like I am.”

The camp is part of Ball State University’s Center for Autism Spectrum Disorder (CASD). The center operates the camp out of the Burris Laboratory School on campus.  It’s a six-week day camp. David McIntosh is the Director of Camp Achieve. He says he thinks there’s a definite need not only in Central Indiana for this camp, but across the country. Families are coming from as far away as New York for Camp Achieve.

McIntosh says most autism camps focus on recreation, but at Camp Achieve campers improve academic, social and behavior skills, while of course, having some fun.

“Building on those skills and helping them be ready for school, to be ready for friendships, function better at home, all of those things,” said Storey Snyder, the Associate Director of Camp Achieve.

Snyder says at times Camp Achieve is a family’s last stop, which she described as a heavy feeling.

“It was either we make some progress and figure out how to figure out some of the behavior that we were seeing, or he was moving into residential care,” said Snyder.

But the transformation is unlike anything Snyder has ever seen.

Snyder added, “He was able to stay in the home. He ended up graduating high school and joining the Navy.”

The reach is much further than just a summer camp.  The rate of autism has steadily grown over the last decade.  About 1 in 59 children has been identified with autism spectrum disorder in 2018, according to the CDC.

“The camp really has a strong focus on enhancing children’s social skills, just as simple as going up to somebody and saying hello, good morning,” said McIntosh.

Although this camp only goes to age 12, McIntosh says it’s critical this sort of attention continues on.

“We need to respond with programming,” said McIntosh, “Not only in schools, but in the collegiate level, which Ball State is really responsive to and conduct research to help in that transition.”

Programming of Camp Achieve is based on applied behavior analysis and evidence-based treatment. The camp counselors are Ball State University education students and are supervised by qualified staff members and behavioral specialists.

“You are changing their lives in this one summer,” said Snyder.

30 kids take part in camp achieve every summer. It’s a free camp, and it’s funded entirely by an anonymous donor. For more on Camp Achieve and how to get involved, click here.

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