Good to know: Saint Rose Summer Days serves up fun for children with autism

*Next up: Friday Knights!

Late summer, when camps have largely ended and school is still a few weeks off, can be trying for parents. Michelle Williams-Verduzco, for instance, worries that the down time at home gets her 15-year-old twins Sebastian and Diego out of the rhythm of socializing with other kids, a skill that tends to be difficult for them.

Thankfully, the gap shrank somewhat with Summer Days, the five-day camp at Saint Rose geared for Diego and Sebastian and other children with autism. Like its counterpart, Friday Knights, which is held during the school year, Summer Days serves up fun and helps build social skills.

Up to 50 young people ages 7 through 16 took part in the 2015 session held August 24 to 29, choosing from a line-up that included art, music, physical education, yoga, cooking, games, social learning activities and a family picnic.

But in contrast to a traditional camp, the Summer Days application asks for detailed information on what support a camper might require and what accommodations he or she uses at school. About 40 Saint Rose students are hired and trained as counselors in Friday Knights order to ensure a low camper-to-counselor ratio and see to it campers learn as they enjoy themselves.

“We have a game room, but counselors must submit activity plans to show how they will support the kids with turn-taking and engagement,” noted Susan DeLuke, the associate professor of special education who created both “Knights” and “Days.” “Many kids would prefer to play alone. The entire week is focused on developing the social skills they need to integrate into the community as adults.”

Saint Rose has earned a reputation as a place that welcomes young people with disabilities and their parents. With Friday Knights, Summer Days, Friday Fishes (swim program) and other programs, children on the autism spectrum have found a place that makes them feel comfortable – while Saint Rose students learn tolerance and how to reach individuals who learn in many different ways.

Williams-Verduzco says her children have come to count on Friday Knights, Summer Days, the Friday Knights Fishes swim program and the social skills group they attend.

“For my children to leave our home to go to an unfamiliar place with many unpredictable situations can be very stressful,” she said. “But when I say ‘we’re going to Saint Rose,’ I don’t even need to tell them what we’re doing, they say ‘sure,’” she added. “They feel safe there to be themselves.”

*(n: Friday Knights, which starts on Oct. 23, relies on a large staff of student volunteers dedicated to helping young people. Click here for information and an application:http://www.strose.edu/academics/schoolofeducation/article3718

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