Summer camp for kids with autism re-imagined for pandemic limitations

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Camp is a big part of summer life for many kids.

In Philadelphia's Wynnefield section, one camp which faced extra challenges this year is carrying on in a new way.

Families of children with autism have struggled during the pandemic.

Daily helpers could not come into their homes. Schools went online.

So, they really looked forward to Camp Kinney at St. Joseph's University.

Instead of just putting their usual camp online, the Kinney Center team re-imagined it.

Familiar in-person activities will go live online from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., three days a week, mixed with prerecorded videos families can watch whenever they want.

The goal is the same - learning wrapped in fun.

"We looked at the life skills piece, right, which, of course, is building flexibility, identifying interests, we thought that was a big important part of it. And then we also thought the social skills was a big piece of it. And so we've got some of those sessions worked in," says Kinney Center executive director Angus Murray. "We've still got your staples, right, your arts and crafts projects, your music, your cooking."

And for those camp staples, kids receive an activity box with all the supplies, so they can follow along with instructors.

Kids will also go to the Elmwood Park Zoo and other places on virtual field trips.

And it's all designed so parents need not be at the child's side during camp,to be right there, so they can get a summer break, too.

The current schedule includes:

Week 1: Pets & Vets - Campers will meet furry friends from all over the world while learning more about themselves and their families.

Week 2: Namaste Home - Campers will center themselves through movement and meditation while learning how to initiate interactions and self-advocacy skills.

Week 3: We've Got the Beat - Campers will dance to the beat of their own drum while learning how to maintain conversations.

Week 4: Superstar! Let's Get Active - Campers will hop, skip and jump through the week, while learning about maintaining healthy friendships and managing emotions.

Week 5: Hero Week Campers - Campers will meet both mystical and real-life heroes while learning how to build relationships.

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