Summer Activities

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In spring 2016, MAPS members compiled the following list of summer activities that their autistic children have participated in and enjoyed. (Note: Some hyperlinks may have changed since this list was created -- please search for each program online to find current information.)

Camp Discovery

Autism Society of Minnesota overnight camp

Camp Eden Wood

Parent Comments: Run by True Friends, Camp Eden Wood is one of several camps run by True Friends but is the closest to Minneapolis. It is fully staffed to take care of a wide variety of disabilities including autism. They offer various levels of support including 1:1 support. In the summer they do weekly sessions. You can choose between day sessions and overnight sessions. Throughout the year they also offer respite weekends. We have gone for the last 2 years, for 2-3 weeks of day camp. The staff is kind, well trained, caring, and extremely flexible and responsive. It can be either private pay or using a county waiver. They also have scholarships.

Parent Comments: My child went to day camp at Camp Eden Wood at age 7. Highly structured day camp geared for all ages and abilities. Climbing wall, swimming in a local pool, canoeing. My son loved the cafeteria food! Note: there is a week long overnight camp for kids with ASD ages 6 and up. We accidentally signed up for that and were switched to the day camp option. Eden Wood was a small camp atmosphere with low staff/camper ratio good for kids of all abilities.

Day Camp Kici Yapi (YMCA)

Parent Comments: My child participated from ages 5-7. Day camp activities at a rustic camp in Prior Lake. Swimming (in a pool), canoeing, group games, giant slide, horses, arts and crafts. Good for kids who can function with high camper/staff ratio (about 1:12). Good for kids who enjoy group games such as gaga ball. Child must be able to ride very full bus out to Prior Lake with minimal staff supervision (or you may choose to drive them separately).

Day Camp Wahode (Autism Society of MN)

Parent Comments: This is a day camp specifically for kids with ASD. They have a high staff to camper ratio, 1:2 and do activities that are ASD appropriate and engage the kids and give them a traditional camp out in the woods experience (swimming, art, music, hiking, games, etc.). My son loved it and wants to go again this year. He went last summer for one week (8 years old). I think you have to be 8 to go. I think it is great for kids who really would not function well in a typical setting without support. It is also expensive, but there are waivers and financial aide (scroll down).

Parent Comments: My child went to this camp at age 7. Day camp activities such as rock climbing, swimming, canoeing, horses, arts and crafts, sensory-friendly activities. While it is expensive, and inconveniently located (carpool!!), my son had a blast. He especially loved having a 1:2 staff/camper ratio. I saw all levels of functioning children there, boys and girls. Staff is very highly trained in ASD.

Dodge Nature Center Preschool Summer Camp

Parent Comments: My son participated from age 3 - 7. He also went to the preschool from 3-6. This is a nature based summer program and the kids spend most of the time outdoors. It is not ASD specific. But, the staff were really willing to work with us. My son started out there in preschool with a behavioral aide from Fraser who accompanied him for part of the time (2 hr. 45 min. class time) and after about a year he no longer needed her. Being outside was really helpful for him sensory wise. Each class has about 18 kids and three teachers. They divide into small groups often for exploring the Dodge Nature Center. We chose this because some psychologists we worked with when our son was 3 (from PACE Place) recommended he join in with typical peers as soon as possible (prior to Dodge he was only in Fraser day treatment). I would recommend this for a kiddo who needs to move a lot and is socially motivated/interested but struggles to "play" appropriately. It would be a harder environment for kids who really struggle with transition or need to have a constant routine. It's good for kids though who are working on and having success with flexibility.

Leonardo's Basement

Parent Comments: Leonardo's Basement has Lego robotics and a whole bunch of other creative stuff.

Minneapolis Parks & Rec - Rec Plus Summer Program

Parent Comments: Can be hit or miss in terms of organization and quality. I have had my babysitter take our son to the class. I also call the director/staff before hand to touch base about my son and his needs. The staff have been kind and flexible.

Parent Comments: My child participated in Rec Plus at the Armatage location at ages 6-7. Choice of activities such as art room, game room, gym, outdoors, playground. Intermittent field trips. Good for children who prefer to choose their own activities. Staff turnover can be high, but there were more male staff than I've typically seen, which was good for my son.

The Works Summer Camps

Parent Comments: My child participated at age 7. Structured activities focused on building and experiments. The staff are educators who truly enjoy what they do. They had no problem finding alternative things to do when my son wasn't interested in the activity at hand, or was having difficulties. Recommended for children who are able to work independently for a length of time.

Unleashed Summer Camp (American Humane Society)

Parent Comments: At Humane Society camp they learn about taking care of animals, get exposure to them and visit a goat farm.

West Metro Learning Connections

Parent Comments: My child started at 5 years old, now in the second semester. Social skills group for high functioning ASD kids all age levels. Expensive-we use grant money to pay for this. Helps with making friends, negotiating conflict, taking turns, expression, understanding others emotions, emotional regulation, etc.

Parent Comments: My son participated last summer and the summer before (ages 7 and 8). He did the social skills group as well as some camp days. The social skills groups are like typical social skills groups with activities and a set structure. The camp is more unstructured and they go on typical camp activities, to the beach, Chutes and Ladders play area in Bloomington, etc. The staff ratio is high. It is nice because it is very flexible in terms of the days you can go. Good filler around other set camps or family vacations. My son liked both. He did it out of the Edina location, but more often than not, they drove him to the Excelsior site for the camp because there were not enough campers in Edina. He was fine with that because he loves to go places in the car, but for other kids, that may not be ideal. They also tend to be a bit disorganized administratively. And, it is expensive, but they do have financial aid. Overall, I think it was a very appropriate activity for him in that they understand ASD. I think it is for kids that have at least some verbal skills and can function in small group settings.