Camp Royall is a special place for campers of all ages, from 4 to 104! In recent years our programming for teenagers has grown, and we’re excited that Camp Royall can be a place for young people to connect and prepare for adulthood.
In 2016, we started Teen Tuesday, a monthly group for teens to share dinner and work on life skills together. Three years later, we started Teen Retreats, a weekend-long camp experience held eight times per year. At the retreats, participants enjoy typical camp activities, but they’re also asked for their opinions on activity options so that the plan for the weekend reflects the interests and choices of the group. Both of these programs are geared toward teens who have low support needs in self-care and communication, and new participants are screened by camp staff to ensure they are a good fit for the groups.
For Sadie Watterson, who has attended several Teen Retreats over the years, the programs are a great way to find friends with common interests. “I love meeting people from all over the state,” she says. “I’ve made really good friends that I talk to on a daily basis. I’ve gotten to travel to see some of my friends, and we’ve attended anime conventions together.”
Matthew Howard, who has attended both Teen Tuesday and Teen Retreats, concurs: “I get to be with my friends and we have fun together. I sometimes show them the games I am playing, and we talk about things like our favorite gaming systems.”
“Camp Royall is the one time he really gets to socialize with peers on the spectrum,” says Karen Howard, Matthew’s parent. “I think that helps his patience and empathy, and we have really enjoyed watching that develop. Being part of the community has helped Matthew mature and develop his independence skills.”
Marleny Quinones, parent of participant Aaron Crenshaw, praises the programs for improving social skills. “As a person with high-functioning autism, his social needs were often missed,” she says. “I think the Camp Royall leaders have done a magnificent job at providing programs that meet those needs that often fall in the cracks. At Camp Royall, he feels like he is part of a community of peers who relate to his struggles as someone with autism.”
Aaron’s favorite activities at Camp include playing soccer with friends and arts & crafts. Matthew enjoys hayrides, going in the pool, and visits from horses. Sadie also enjoys the pool, the sensory room, arts & crafts, and horses.
“I like the fact that I can relax and get away, but I also get pushed a little bit out of my comfort zone with new activities,” says Sadie, citing her experience with the zap line as an example of trying something new.
All of the participants encourage other teens to check out Camp Royall’s teen offerings.
“They should come,” says Matthew. “They will have fun, meet new people, and get to do lots of activities that you cannot do at home, like sleep in a cabin and make s’mores.”
“Every teen at Teen Tuesday is cool, smart, and handsome,” says Aaron. “We are fun and we are cool. Join us!”
To learn more about Camp Royall’s year-round offerings, please visit our website: camproyall.org.
Tags: autism, autism north carolina, autism resources, Autism Society of North Carolina, Camp Royall