Summer Autism: Puppy camp lets autistic children learn about dogs

Children with autism often make a connection with animals – especially dogs. A camp near Rochester, N.Y., lets children with autism and other developmental disabilities, as well as neurotypical children, learn about brand new puppies. The camp is run by a married couple who breed Labrador retrievers, and the wife in that couple is an autism specialist at a local school district.

SPENCERPORT — Lauren Erlichman and Martin Yesowitch might not have spent their wedding anniversary how they expected this year, but the date was memorable nonetheless.

The Canal Road couple, who tied the knot on July 7, 2007, breeds Labrador retrievers. Their canine companions made sure their anniversary was extra special — and numerically aligned.

“We had our litter this week — seven puppies on 7/7,” Yesowitch says. That was just days after helping their 4-year-old dog, Macie, deliver her pups. “We got married on 7/7/07, and we had seven puppies on the 7th with our first puppy.”

That’s pretty amazing. Then again, so is the work that Erlichman and Yesowitch do.

For the second year, the couple is running the Labs of Love Puppy Camp for children ages 7 to 15. Kids learn about training and feeding dogs, as well as health issues, caring for the animals and running a kennel.

Some children learn even more valuable lessons.

Many kids in the week-long sessions have developmental disabilities such as autism, and Erlichman, an autism specialist with the Spencerport Central School District, said the puppies help those children socialize and become more confident.

“Animals speak a non-verbal language with people,” Erlichman says, paraphrasing Temple Grandin, a noted author and speaker who has autism and whose life story was detailed in an HBO movie named for her.

“There’s no talking back. They’re more in control,” she said.

via It’s pure puppy love at Spencerport summer camp | | Democrat and Chronicle.

Autism and Summer: Learning social skills

Some kids spend the summer learning archery, the backstroke or tennis. Some children with autism are working this summer on their social skills – an area where autistic people often need help.

The Treatment and Research Institute for Autism Spectrum Disorders at the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center in Nashville is  holding a Social Skills Summer Camp this summer. Campers 7 to 11 years old work on basic social skills; 12- to 14-year-old campers continue to learn social skills and build on them with field trips; campers  15 to 21 years old learn social skills and early on-the-job skills.

In Wisconsin, a group of parents, teachers and others started an 8-week Social Summer Experience for autistic children. And The Autism Project in Rhode Island is offering a variety of social skills classes for children on the autism spectrum this summer.

In Lawrence, Kansas, a high school for autistic students offers a summer course on socialization with field trips to a variety of community settings.

From an outsider’s point of view, the scene looked pretty chaotic as students and staff from Free State High School’s summer autism program took a trip to a restaurant.

Of the dozen students on the outing, several were yelling, one was crying, and others expressed emphatically that they simply didn’t want to eat there.

One by one, staff members worked to calm the students.

The program and the community outings are all part of social skills lessons the program emphasizes during the summer months when the students are away from regularly scheduled classes.

“These kids need to be out in the community as much as anybody else,” said staff member Emily Hughes. “Our biggest goal is to help them learn how to be independent.”

via Free State High School’s summer autism program encourages social interaction /