The Haven of Hospitality is really living up to its name.
Last week, Hantsport played host to a summer camp for children with autism — the first of its kind for this region — and by all accounts, it was a camp that the children won't soon forget.
Youths with autism spectrum disorder far too frequently find themselves segregated, isolated, or treated differently. The lifelong neurodevelopmental disorder makes it difficult for many autistic individuals to communicate, and interact 'appropriately' in social settings.
The participants at Hantsport's week-long summer day camp didn't have to worry about fitting in. They didn't have to endure disapproving stares or rude comments when things got a little loud. They were treated as equals; where they were allowed to play, explore and interact with others without fear of being ridiculed or scolded. They were in a safe environment, one that allowed the youths to try new things and in doing so, grow as individuals.
It's what every child should experience when attending camp.
In an interview with the Hants Journal, Dylan Crossley's mother, Nicole Henry, said she was brought to tears when she heard how much fun her autistic son was having. On his first day, he came home exuding happiness as no one made fun of him at the camp.
“He could just be himself and that was the best thing about it,” said Henry in the interview. (You can read the full story about the camp on page 1.)
In spite of increased education about the disorder, autistic children are still quite misunderstood. They're often seen as being disruptive as they have a tendency to get loud, to repeat words or phrases, tap things repetitively, or go against societal norms — especially when experiencing a sensory overload.
Eleven campers from Kings and Hants counties took part in this program. Next year, the organizer, Annette Lewis, hopes that number will grow as word spreads about the fun event. She's looking to open it up to students between the ages of five and 21 years old.
There's no doubt that word will spread. Both parents and children attending this first camp left with positive comments and lasting memories.
This summer camp is a program that is certainly a worthwhile endeavour, and one that should receive as much community support as possible. Although autistic children may act differently, they have so much to contribute to society when given the chance to succeed.