Free to Be Themselves, Campers Thrive at Camp Horizon

"My Name is Daniel, Not Autism" the title of an essay by Daniel Hecht, camper at Camp Horizon, who has autism.

“My Name is Daniel, Not Autism” the title of an essay by Daniel Hecht, camper at Camp Horizon, who has autism.

One of the benefits of spending time with friends is that you don’t have to worry about them judging you for things they know are outside of your control. They know you for the strong, smart, and kind person that you are on the inside.

For children and young adults with disabilities, however, making those good friends is often frustrated by a constant fear that they will not be accepted for who they are as a person and instead be seen for their disability.  That is why places like Camp Horizon are so important and beneficial.

Each year, over 140 campers as young as 5 years old attend Camp Horizon – a zone that is free from the superficial judgments. Instead, the campers are surrounded by other children and young adults with disabilities and lead by a supportive staff that knows there is more to the camper than their disability. These campers are energetic, playful, joyous, smart, expressive, and loving. Who wouldn’t want to be friends with someone like that?

 

Dedicated counselors work with campers one-on-one to provide individualized and unparalleled support. Campers learn to maximize their independence from a curriculum focused on therapeutic recreation and education. So whether campers are swimming in the pool, playing a team sport, socializing with others, or enjoying a field trip, they are constantly learning and growing to be more independent.

They are free to make those lasting summer memories, secure in the knowledge that their individual needs will be met. While Daniel has autism and is nonverbal, his mom Muriel Hecht explains that, “with the help of his camp counselors, he knows it is okay to make his needs known.” Regular schedules and predictability are essential to Daniel’s every day life.

Luckily, speaking is not the only way to communicate. Daniel is an admirable and articulate writer. Recognizing his talent, Daniel’s camp counselor, Victor Weeks, says “We encourage him to continue to write in any and all formats because that is his gift.” Sometimes, Daniel will express himself in a text to Victor about how he’s feeling. This is a wonderful accomplishment for children and young adults like Daniel.

In one of Daniel’s several essays, he wrote, “Camp Horizon is a place that wants [me] to be happy… The best thing is that nobody tells me ‘no’ and I can be myself.”

Another one of Daniel’s essays, “My Name Is Daniel, Not Autism,” was published in Exceptional Parent Magazine.

He wrote, “If people can learn to live with the differences among them, the world can be a much nicer place for everyone.”  We couldn’t agree more, Daniel.

 

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