WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - As the school year approaches, a specialized summer camp is wrapping up, but its services will not end when the summer does.
The Autism Society of North Carolina Social Recreation program is in its second year of hosting summer camps specifically for autistic children.
There are five camps throughout the state, including one in Wilmington.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about one in 68 individuals have been identified with autism spectrum disorder.
The Wilmington camp has 40 campers ranging in age from 4-22 years old. Forty camp counselors are on hand to ensure that each camper receives one-on-one attention from their personal counselor each day.
"We build connections," said Jade Fortin, assistant director with the Autism Society of North Carolina Social Recreation Program of Wilmington. "I think that's the most important thing. We show we really care. And to be able to provide a one-on-one service, it gives that child a place where they know they can be themselves."
The one-on-one ratio allows counselors to formulate their camper's days based on their individual needs.
Campers do many of the same activities that would be found in a traditional summer camp from art groups to music groups to fitness and fun activities, but each activity is tailored to meet the camper's needs.
"The way that we're different is that we are specially designing these groups to meet their needs," Fortin said. "With a child with autism, you need to break it down and that's exactly what we do here. We take it step by step."
The program is free to all participants and continues with an after-school program once the school year starts.
"I know that means the world to us, but it means the world to the parents as well, having free services to carry them through their childhood," Fortin said. "As long as they're not receiving services that are paid for outside the school system, then it is free."
The Autism Society of North Carolina Social Recreation Program also has an adult program created especially for their adult population.
"We realized there are all of these services for these children, but there's really nothing for the adults," Fortin said. "Whether it's meeting at a restaurant or going to see a movie, or having game night. And the ultimate goal is not only to learn these social skills that they maybe haven't had a change to learn yet, but to have friends. To make friends and enjoy their time."
To learn more about the Autism Society of North Carolina's Social Recreation programs, click here.