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For many teens and preteens, summer is a time to immerse themselves in rigorous sports activities which challenge the mind and body. Now, children and teens with autism can have the same opportunities.

Unlike their typical peers, children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) have few opportunities to experience the more advanced, age-appropriate physical activities which truly challenge them. Extreme Sports Camp provides this opportunity and the underlying instructional approach to realize it. 

Learning a sport is best accomplished through sustained and repeated immersion, coupled with the expectation that each camper can in fact reach his or her next level. We have chosen sports that can be “extreme” to an ASD child but which can also be mastered by that child through incremental learning. For example, it can be daunting to a non-verbal child to look over the edge of a cliff that he’s being asked to repel down, but his climbing harness makes him safe and he is coached on how to make it down – and once he does it he finds it is exhilarating, fun, and rewarding. It can also seem forbidding to someone with autism to be placed in the middle of a lake on a water tube while the boat pulls away, but he has a life vest on and a buddy beside him, and once he’s moving he sees that he can hold on and get the feel for the ride - and he begins to love every minute of the experience. Then he’s ready for the next step – to move from a tube to water skis, or to move from a low, gentle cliff to a more difficult climb.

The sports chosen by Extreme Sports Camp foster motor planning and skills that can lead to higher cognitive function and improved behavior.  The activities chosen can be individualized, are free of complicated rules, and are intrinsically fun and motivating to the average ASD child no matter what level of mastery they have achieved.  The sports are available in most communities, so learning gained at camp can be generalized and strengthened back home.

The goals for our campers are threefold: (a) to foster the long term incorporation of recreational sports into daily life which is so important to human physical and mental health; (b) to improve cognitive, linguistic, motor, and social skills through physical action and group interaction; and (c) to promote personal growth and independence.

Camp activities take place in the beautiful town of Aspen, Colorado, and the surrounding Roaring Fork Valley, a setting ideal for outdoor recreation. The Aspen area abounds with mountains, rivers, lakes, trails, forests, and waterfalls. Our core program consists of wall/rock climbing, hiking, and water sports (swimming, skiing, and tubing). Fun but athletic diversions include white water rafting, bowling, ice skating, giant water slides, and horseback riding. Activities take place during the day over one full week.

Due to the nature of the travel camp sessions the camp size will be limited to between four to six campers. The general session camp size is larger with a maximum of fifteen participants per session. Enrollment is limited to boys and girls age 8 through 18. Campers participate in activities as a group but have the benefit of one-to-one camper/buddy interaction. Overnight accommodations will be provided by Aspen Camp for the Deaf this summer. A new location for Extreme Sports Camp last summer which is located in Old Snowmass, Colorado. This facility will allow for a sleep-away experience and the chance to gain proficiency in daily living skills. In most situations a familiar aide or family member will join the camper at the camp.

Our core physical activities are limited in number and repeated several times over the course of the session. In this way, campers are more likely to reach a level of competency, and confidence levels increase. The camp program director assesses the skills of each participant, and buddies provide one-on-one individualized instruction and support. Each of the activities is scaffolded into multiple challenge levels, and the campers are encouraged by staff to try new activities and improve their skills.  A camper can opt for a more comfortable level of participation at any time. In this manner, each child has the opportunity to participate at his/her own pace and competency, and everyone can be taken to his/her next level of physical development.

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