Summer Fun and Friendship for Children and Teens with Disabilities

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Horizons Developmental Remediation Center prepares their Summer Fun Camps to welcome children from around the world with developmental disabilities.

With the school year coming to a close, children and teens are thinking about summer adventures. For many kids, the summer is full of time with friends, swimming lessons, camp experiences, and vacations. But for children and teens with developmental disabilities, these summer opportunities are often not readily available. Many camps, lessons, and other activities are not set up to meet the needs of individuals with disabilities, and parents may worry about their child becoming overwhelmed or isolated in those settings. And yet, these children and their parents very much want to have the same summer experiences and memories of fun and friendship as everyone else.

For the past 6 years, Horizons Developmental Remediation Center in Michigan has been providing summer camp experiences for children and teenagers with autism and other developmental disabilities. Specially designed to meet the needs of these individuals, Horizons Summer Fun Camps provide children from around the country and the world with an opportunity to have fun, make new discoveries, and develop friendships throughout the summer months. "One of the best parts of each summer is watching the relationships our campers develop with the staff and with each other," says Camp Director Courtney Wiersum. "They are already starting to ask what weeks their friends will be coming so they can be sure to see them!"

Each week, Horizons campers explore a different theme designed to provide opportunities for problem solving, collaboration, communicating, and engaging with others. Nicole Beurkens, founder and Director of the Center, began offering camps for small groups of children six years ago. "The growth of the Center and our camps program has been amazing, and speaks to the need for these kinds of programs. We recognize the incredible potential each of our campers has to learn and engage with others. At the same time, they may need a slower pace and more support to reach their potential. Our camps provide the best of both worlds--great opportunities for discovery and friendships, coupled with the support and encouragement needed to take advantage of those opportunities."

Horizons camp participants benefit from the experience and expertise of highly trained professionals. This summer's staff members include a recreational therapist, certified special education teachers, an occupational therapist, a speech language pathologist, and consultants certified in the Relationship Development Intervention® Program, in addition to camp counselors and volunteers from a variety of backgrounds. "They are getting ready for a whole new series of adventures this summer," says Wiersum. "We will be sailing with pirates on the high seas, planting a garden, blasting off into space, and much more. Each week will bring a new set of experiences." Phillip Kuperus, a veteran camper who attends Horizons year round for school, is excited to see all of his friends again this summer. He and the other students have begun preparing the garden and planting some seeds. He says, "I want to show them the pumpkins I planted. They will be getting big when my friends come to camp."

People interested in Horizons camps and the other programs offered can obtain more information by visiting their website at, or calling the Center at (616) 698-0306. The photo gallery on the website includes photos from previous years' camp adventures.


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