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How a Virginia spring break camp is giving children with autism a chance to explore nature

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Posted at 9:03 PM, Apr 11, 2024

RICHMOND, Va. -- As one of many camps the Autism Society of Central Virginia hosts throughout the year, the society's spring break camp provides 20 students with a week full of adventure.

This year's camp took place during the first week of April, kicking off Autism Awareness Month. It was nestled in a hidden forest just beyond downtown Richmond at Truetimber Arborist.

CBS 6 spoke with one mother, Li-anne Jennings, who was dropping off her son, Brecken for Field Day on the last day of camp.

She said the camp served as a safe space and adventurous environment for her son.

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Li-anne and Brecken

"Brecken is very outgoing, we don't usually get to do things outside like this, he’s more a technical person," Jennings said.

The four-day camp gives students ages five to 21 on the autism spectrum a chance to explore the forest and take part in numerous outdoor and indoor activities.

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"We really kind of get down and dirty and get in the creeks and exploring nature and identifying trees and identifying nature and really just becoming one with Richmond," said Kaitlyn Kammerman with the Autism Society.

From zip lining to making s'mores she said each activity is adapted to meet the abilities of each child.

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"We have visuals and accommodations available for everyone, we have individuals that are in wheelchairs and strollers that we’re just maneuvering down through the creeks and through the mud and they're participating in every activity that everyone else is doing and getting to be one with nature and exploring just like everyone else is," Kammerman said.

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Kaitlyn Kammerman

Jennings said she's thankful for this camp as there aren’t many options like this for those on the autism spectrum. "Sometimes it’s hard to find a place he can fit in and feel comfortable, and he's understood," Jennings said. "It’s just great because now we’re able to get out and do things and experience things that maybe we wouldn't have before. Things like this have definitely been a gift to us."

It's a gift Kammerman said is rooted in care and wrapped in kindness.

"It’s just an innate sense of just calmness to when the kids are running around and playing and exploring, they have freedom which they don’t always have when they're stuck indoors and it relieves any anxieties," Kammerman said. "The likelihood of you'll meet someone with autism is very high and creating that acceptance and understanding is just so significant. I just hope that people can practice kindness and patience on a daily basis, everyone has different circumstances that they live in, different stressors in their lives, and different things that impact their daily ability to survive and to live."

To learn more about the other social, recreational, and support groups that The Autism Society offers you can visit their website.

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