Tag Archive for 'campo estivo'

Sumer camps and autism

Summer is a time for summer camps for kids, and the first week is about to end for those at the Integrated Football Academy. We have a great group of 20 boys with intellectual disabilities, aged 10 to 20 years old. A well-organized summer camp led by experienced instructors and psychologists, supported by a doctor and a speech therapist, represents an intense and emotionally challenging experience.

It’s not just the heat that could affect their physical and mental state, making them experience a level of fatigue they have never felt before. Normally, the boys play football and basketball from 8:30 AM to 12:15 PM, after which they play board games until the camp concludes at 1:00 PM. During this time, there are numerous breaks for drinking, resting, and eating. We often wonder how it is possible that young people with autism, who do not train for more than 2-3 hours a week during the year, manage to train for 5 hours a day, 5 days a week.

This result says a lot about how developed their physical and mental resilience is. Their good mood is proof that this commitment is appropriate for them. Playing contact team sports like football and basketball, they could commit fouls, react aggressively towards others, or sit on the bench due to excessive fatigue. However, these situations do not arise; the boys collaborate. It is true that occasionally someone gets angry over a wrong pass or a mistake, but they have been taught to avoid these behaviors and to apologize those rare times they are not correct.

These boys train with us all year round, and this helps guide them in this new experience. New, because in two weeks they train for 50 hours, which corresponds to the total hours spent during the sports year from October to June.

Boys with autism do not learn on their own; the team that guides them works with them all year and is primarily responsible for their way of experiencing the summer camp and the sporting and psychological learning they show on the field. Knowing them means understanding what they can do and what situations might cause them to have a crisis; this is, in a nutshell, the main role played by the team. This is one of the secrets why now, at the summer camp, they manage to be active for such a long and entirely new period for them.

Finally, a 20-year-old boy, with us for 9 years, is doing an internship during these two weeks to become an assistant instructor, a role that in the future could allow him to turn this current commitment into a job.

Now we are moving forward to organize the next sports season, the 10th year of our activity in the field of intellectual disability.

Summer camp for young with intellectual disability

It is difficult to talk about a summer camp for young people with intellectual disabilities with medium to severe disorders such as those we ended after three weeks of activity. The difficulty lies mainly in the fact that the activity was carried out on a 1 to 1 basis, which means that each young person was followed by an operator, who could be a psychologist or a coach. For them, as for those with a better level of functioning, the sports activity was alternated with the expressive activity for a total duration of 5 consecutive hours.

The sporting activity took place in a field of 5 soccer fields structured with a sequence of motor stations so that everyone was active at the same time without waiting. This allowed each child to be able to carry out the activity at their own pace, thus allowing them to take breaks according to their tiredness and their motivation to continue.

Having much more time available to carry out the activity, compared to the usual duration of the training of 60 minutes, has allowed everyone to take rather long breaks of 15/20 minutes while continuing to stay on the field and then resume it having a time available of 5 hours. This aspect also had a positive effect on the coaches who worked in the awareness of not having to urge the youngster to do the activity, as can happen during when the training time is much shorter.

It must also be said that each week the participants were active for 5 hours a day for a total of 25 hours, which in quantitative terms is equivalent to 3 months of training for two hours a week. Furthermore, these more limited functioning boys/girls are unlikely to come every workout, so it is not hard to imagine that for many this weekly number may have equated to 4 months of training.

Therefore, it should not be surprising that some of them have improved a lot even in just one week, which for them represented a completely new life experience, with an unknown personal involvement. This result was often reiterated by the parents who would have liked to continue this kind of activity for other weeks. The camp was also extended to their brothers and sisters. Not only did this allow the family to relieve themselves of the problem of their placement during this time in other summer leaders, but the games they played together enhanced their awareness that other families also have children like their brothers/sisters with disabilities. They discovered that there are activities that can be done together, that their siblings improve if they do an organized activity with others their age. In other words, an idea of everyday normalcy is spread among them that can exist if you are in a non-exclusive but interacting context.

The environments they usually attend are not organized in this way, but our summer camp demonstrates how it is possible to promote integration, without it becoming a pitiful activity or one of fake inclusion, in which the only element that unites is the condition of the same physical environment but which creates exclusion for the content practiced.