Autism camp offered to local children

YOUNGSTOWN — At Camp FRIEND (Finding Rewards in Every New Day), local children who have autism have been able to spend the summer performing the activities and programs that offered at other camps.

Robin Suzelis, board president for Autism Society of Mahoning Valley and a co-coordinator of the summer camp, said the six-hour day camp gives children on the autism spectrum an opportunity to have a summer day camp like their peers.

The camps offered at the YMCA in Youngstown and other sites serve children from Trumbull, Mahoning and Columbiana counties. Camps include a trained staff of special education teachers and behavior therapists to help meet the needs of the children.

“We want to provide an increased awareness of the needs of those with autism. The nice thing about the camp is we do activities with yoga, music and art specialists. Typically, a child with autism, depending on the severity, can’t really go to other camps,” Suzelis said.

The camp has a 1-1 staff-to-camper ratio. Money for the camp is raised from a 5K and fun walk.

While many activities take place on site, there are field trips to the OH WOW! The Roger & Gloria Jones Children’s Center for Science & Technology and to One Hot Cookie.

The camp began in 2014 and has grown over the years. This summer’s camp had more than 25 children.

Josiah Lamply, 7, of Warren, said he likes the camp because he can go swimming and to the OH WOW! Center.

Twins Eric and Peyton Vicyak, 10, of Edinburg, Pa., said they like the field trips, the water slide at the YMCA’s indoor swimming pool and visiting the Youngstown State University football and soccer fields.

The twins said they like being able to be at the camp together, which Suzelis said is key for the children.

“I like spending time with my new friends,” Peyton said.

Isabella Turocy, 7, of Canfield, said she liked the art classes and yoga.

Suzelis said the Autism Society also offers other events throughout the year for children, including holiday events with Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny.

bcoupland@tribtoday.com

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