August 19, 2019
The University of New England recently teamed up with the Autism Society of Maine and the City of Biddeford to hold a free camp for children with autism in York County.
The intent and purpose of Finding the Pieces Camp is to provide an enriching summer camp experience for children who have autism by celebrating differences and providing opportunities for interactions with peers-both those who are on and off the spectrum.
“What we hope to do through this camp is find the pieces, to find what makes each child unique and what little thing they each need to be able to participate and have fun,” Caryn Husman, M.S., OTR/L, assistant clinical professor and director of Health, Wellness, and Occupational Studies, told WGME.
Campers were guided by several UNE students through many activities. The students gained valuable hands-on experience and earned college credits by giving the campers one on one attention.
The students were supervised by two professionals.
Audrey Bartholomew, Ph.D., associate professor and chair of the Education Department, says students can learn about children with autism by reading books and watching videos, but working directly with the children is the best way to learn about them.
“Getting out and experiencing it, they get a better feeling for children who are on different ends of the spectrum,” she explained. “Some kids can talk and have good conversations, while others don't talk at all and use pictures. We're able to guide the students right in the moment. So, I think this is such a valuable experience.”
This was the third year that UNE students have helped run the camp.
“We certainly see ourselves as a service to the community,” Bartholomew stated. “One of my goals for next year is to really make the camp bigger.”