“What are they excited about? EVERYTHING! They can’t wait to go down the super slide and get back in the pool. This summer will be the first overnight they’ve ever had! The big kids keep bragging about it and they can’t wait to experience it for themselves. There’s so much!”
This will be the third summer that Benjie’s sending her four boys to the Pathfinder’s Inclusion program at Island Quest Day Camp. Island Quest is one of Commonpoint Queens’ most popular summer programs in part because of the recently renovated —beautiful!—350-acre Henry Kaufmann Campgrounds in Wheatley Heights, but also because of the combination of traditional camp offerings and specialty Sports, STEM and Nature programming that children participate in.
“My situation is unusual with four boys around the same age, and three of them being high-functioning autistic.” Benjie’s two sets of twins—Liam and Aiden (11) and Jordan and Dylan (10) have done a lot of growing up in Commonpoint Queens’ programs, but camp has been the one that seems to leave a lasting impact. “Of course they love to run around the grounds and play sports, their gross motor skills have developed incredibly. They’re really drawn to the tech programs too. And while I’m so grateful that they’ve learned to swim at camp, it’s their social skills and ability to manage relationships that I’m so appreciative for.”
The Pathfinders program provides both inclusion and self-contained programs for children ages 5–21. Self-contained programs provide a 3-to-1 camper-to-counselor ratio and are specifically designed to meet the social, emotional, educational, and recreational needs of participants. Whereas the inclusion program options are supported in a typical group setting with 5 to 1 ratios depending on what the camper intake suggests.
“I was so excited to find Island Quest because there are a lot of programs that don’t give interaction opportunities with typically functioning children. In the real world these interactions will be taking place so if children with disabilities can function well enough it’s important to give them social opportunities especially at an earlier age.” Benjie also notes how many resources aren’t offered outside of the school year, but camp allows for her boys to naturally work on their social skills. “Sometimes there can be regression or sliding back when you wean them off of support. That hasn’t happened, in fact it’s forced them to use the skills they’ve acquired and it helped me to see that they’ve been progressing as much as I thought they had been. We couldn’t measure that if they were not in this supportive environment with those social situations.”
Enrollment in the Pathfinders program can be supported by scholarships from the Butler Foundation, Family Reimbursement and Self Direction options through OPWDD, private donations, and private pay. An intake is required to begin the registration process.
If you are interested in the Pathfinders program please contact Natalie Palermo, Program Director of Special Services, at [email protected], or for more information on Island Quest Day Camp visit islandquestdaycamp.org.
This story is part of our Spring 2023 newsletter – click here to read it.