SF Rec and Park Spearheads Day Camp Experience for Children with Autism
SAN FRANCISCO – San Francisco Recreation and Park Department (RPD) welcomed the supportive response from city agencies and community partners. Camp Azure is a new RPD day camp for children on the autism spectrum. Camp Azure is based on the philosophy that all children can successfully participate in and benefit from community based recreation activities. RPD’s goal is to provide the appropriate support, to help ensure the Azure campers have a successful camp experience.
“We are committed to ensuring all of this City’s children have an opportunity to get out and play.” said Phil Ginsburg, RPD General Manager. “We are thrilled to have the support from our city and community partners so we can better serve our children with autism.”
The camp will be running for four-week long sessions this summer, starting on July 18 and ending on August 12. All four sessions were filled to the capacity of 20 children within the first two days of open registration. Camp Azure will serve a total of 32 children with autism over the four weeks of camp, and there is currently a waiting list of 17-20 children per session.
Every summer, families of children with autism in San Francisco face a critical challenge. The well-structured environment provided during the academic school year has come to an end and the need to maintain and improve upon skills is crucial. Unfortunately, the scarce and expensive summertime options are despairing. At the same time, the need for services is growing as rates of autism increase. The percentage of children with autism in special education programs in San Francisco’s public schools has leapt from 4.3% in 2005 to 7.6% in 2009.
In a series of 2006 focus groups held by the San Francisco Department of Children, Youth and their Families (DCYF) Special Needs Inclusion Project, families of children with autism repeatedly expressed the need for inclusive recreational programming for their children during out-of-school time such as summer breaks. As a result of these survey outcomes, the Inclusive Day Camp Pilot was formed to provide recreation opportunities as a tool to improve health, socialization, education, and community integration for children with autism. RPD ensured that children with autism would have access to two of its summer camp programs, one in 2008 and one in 2009.
Now, Camp Azure is located in Glen Canyon, at the home of Silver Tree Day Camp. The mission of Camp Azure is to meet the individual and diverse needs of children on the autism spectrum, so they can enjoy the benefits of a safe, supportive, challenging, and fun day camp experience, along with their non-disabled peers. Each Azure camper will be paired with an shadow aide to help him or her engage as fully as possible in all camp activities, which include games, sports, arts and crafts, hikes, and Thursday night campfires, just to name a few.