Pennsylvania MENTOR's: Summer Therapeutic Activities Program: Camps like Pennsylvania MENTOR's STAP Help Children with Autism Have an Enjoyable Summer Camp Experience While Learning New and Exciting Things

Article excerpt

In 2003 Pennsylvania MENTOR, a part of the national MENTOR Network, established a Summer Therapeutic Activities Program (STAP) for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), in response to requests from parents. In 2006, the program was replicated at a second location, and in 2007 a third location was established. The three camps will serve 75 children annually in the Philadelphia area. Pennsylvania MENTOR is looking to expand the STAP to neighboring counties in the upcoming years.

The purpose of the camp is to provide family and community based treatment for children who have been identified as having an autism spectrum disorder diagnosis and who are in need of a structured therapeutic program for the summer. This camp helps the children increase their ability to relate effectively and live productively within their homes and community environments.

STAP is designed to meet the mental health needs of children between the ages of five and 15 through individualized therapy, socialization, and recreational activities that involve family members and the community.

STAP goals include, but are not limited to:

* decreasing isolative, self-stimulating and self-abusive behaviors;

* developing self help-skills;

* enhancing pro-social behavior between children in a small group setting to teach generalization of these skills to the community;

* decreasing disruptive and aggressive behaviors;

* increasing coping and frustration tolerance, anger management skills, and relaxation techniques;

* increasing self esteem through the development of competencies in recreational and social areas;

* increasing appropriate communication skills through the use of augmentative communication devices; and

* increasing attention to tasks.

STAP helps children increase their ability to relate effectively and live productively within their home and community environments and experience success in daily living. Involvement in this program improves the youth's behavior, self esteem, social and emotional functioning, thus enabling him/her to remain in the least restrictive setting possible.

STAP maintains an adult to child ratio of one to three. Groups stay together throughout the day so that the children can receive intensive treatment in their specific areas of need, such as promoting socialization with peers and interacting appropriately with adults. Groups spend time in recreation activities, sensory integration, and art based therapies as well as in larger group activities designed to specifically target pro-social behavior development, increase attention to task, increase anger management/frustration tolerance skills, promote communication skills, etc. Throughout the day, applied behavioral analysis (ABA) techniques are employed to help encourage and maintain positive changes

The STAP distinguishes itself as a camp that demands a high level of expertise and training on the part of camp employees. …