Extreme Sports Camp FAQs

Extreme Sports Camp features activities such as waterskiing and rock climbing for autistic children.

Published courtesy of Extreme Sports Camp

What do you offer kids who come to camp?

We have summer and winter programs. In 2009 we offered 2 weekly sessions at Lake Powell in Utah, which focused on boating sports – skiing, kneeboarding, wakeboarding, surfing, and tubing. Plus we had hiking and exploring the desert terrain around the lake. This summer we also offered 7 weekly sessions in the Aspen Colorado area. These sessions focused on 3 core sports: boating, river sports – kayaking and rafting, and climbing – indoor walls, outdoor cliff climbs, repelling, rock hopping, and tyrolean lines – and a challenge ropes course.

VIDEO: Autistic girl communicates through typing
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Our winter program consists of skiing, boarding, and après-ski activities. Surrounding the sports is a heavy social immersion component. Campers have continuous contact with staff who is there to support them. Campers are the center of constant positive attention.

The days are long, from 8:00 am until 6:00-7:00 pm, but the ebb and flow of the day is tempered for the camper's individual stamina. Campers come back to the camp house tired but satisfied and fulfilled. They generally sleep well and in many cases communicative speech improves. Many gain a new sense of confidence and self-advocacy.

What is Extreme Sports Camp's learning approach that makes it effective?

We believe in sports immersion, where a participant can be in the sport and learning it, without necessarily know they are doing so, because the approach is naturalistic but also supported. There is no tuning out the learning because the participant is in the midst of doing it. The brain takes over and awareness and learning become automatic. Because the activity is so fun, campers want to do it. Doing the sports can increase anxiety, but the participant has many chances to overcome the fears and comes away with a sense of accomplishment.

Our learning philosophy and approach is holistic based on a neurodevelopmental understanding of autism spectrum disorders. The model draws from occupational therapy theories and the importance of active engagement in meaningful and purposeful activities and the science of applied behavior analysis. The core beliefs of the model incorporate the importance of positive, reciprocal relationships with people with autism spectrum disorders and understanding principles of learning to efficiently and effectively teach skills. Positive behavior support is used to understand unwanted behaviors, teach new skills and set up a successful environment.

Our senior instructor and innovator, Doug Gilstrap, is a gifted coach and instructor. From the beginning, Doug naturally builds motivation and successful experiences for novice and experienced campers alike. Motivation is created within the activity allowing the camper to experience the height of the activity with support as needed. Following initial exhilarating and positive experiences a camper's program is designed with multiple opportunities to practice target skills gradually increasing independence. On going assessment, activity analysis and adaptation with equipment is key to individualizing instruction plans. The techniques Doug uses are inherent in the principles of learning including; shaping, chaining and prompting and integral in occupational therapy practice.

What are your safety procedures?

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