Autistic Kids Can Break Out of Shell at Special Camp
Aug. 22, 2007 (KABC-TV) (KABC) -- Letting a child go off to summer camp can be one of the hardest things for a parent to do -- even more so if you have a child with special needs. But one agency has been providing a special camp for autistic kids, and they say it can be a rewarding and helpful experience for the whole family.
Filmmaker Mikal Britt says he's working with his dream cast
"These kids act better than most actors, because they're so free they'll go places that most actors are afraid to go," said Britt.
The kids on this film project are autistic, or have other special needs.
"I seek kids talking that never talked outside of this room," said Britt. "We get everybody together."
Filmmaking is just one part of the Focus on All Child Therapies (FACT) summer camp.
"We set up chances for them to feel confident," said FACT director Linda Ostrow. "That's the most important part, and that's what they carry with them when they leave."
For seven days on the UCLA campus, kids swim, create crafts, play games, and make lasting friendships.
One group of young men has been meeting at the camp for the last seven years.
"We might not see each other again until next year," said camper Liam Wagnon. "But we'll acts like we've only been apart for one day."
But besides the socialization, Rebecca Sperber says the experience has helped her son Benny, who has autism, come out of his shell.
"When he came home, his regressive behaviors were 50-percent less, and he's continued to improve through the year," said Sperber. "I truly believe it was the novel experience of the camp."
Most autism experts will tell you that routine and a structure environment is what an autistic child needs. But what this camp shows you is that shaking things up a little bit can really jump start a child's development.
"The noisy dining hall, which is supposed to freak out autistic kids, and the pool," said Ostrow. "They just do a great job."
Camper LaTonya Houston has learned to dream big.
"Hi, all you guys. I am Oprah Winfrey," said Houston.
With encouragement of camp counselors, she's not afraid to reach for the stars.
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