Autism camp provides fun for campers
Camp Noggin in El Reno, an autism-friendly camp, provides a place where children with the disorder can interact with others.
EL RENO — The rain just wouldn't stop, and the chances of getting to swim were bleak.
Trina Naff-Eaves didn't like the prospect of 12 children with autism stuck inside on a day when they had been promised sun, swimming and food on the grill.
But on the last day of Camp Noggin, Naff-Eaves, 39, thought her campers were handling the change of plans extremely well.
“Swim day is the Big Kahuna of all the days at camp,” she said. “But nobody is freaking out very bad. They're still having fun.”
Fun is the theme for Naff-Eaves's four-day autism-friendly camp at the Youth and Family Services Center in El Reno.
As director, Naff-Eaves believes in letting the children play and be themselves around others with autism. Campers are widely varied in the severity of their disorders.
Naff-Eaves said interaction between campers should come naturally instead of making them have forced conversations and hovering over them to make sure they are doing it correctly.
“Sometimes they are taught like robots how to be social,” Naff-Eaves said. “It's not a natural flow, but here they hang out and interact and really learn from each other.”
Due to the length of the camp, Naff-Eaves said, the best thing for her students to experience is fun. Campers partake in horseback riding, a wild animal show, football, basketball and other activities.
“Our mission is F-U-N. Three capital letters,” Naff-Eaves said. “We are a four-day camp and what can you accomplish in four days besides fun?”
The camp was founded in 2009 by Christie Roberts and sponsored by Autism Oklahoma, Youth and Family Services in El Reno and Autism Canadian Valley.
Naff-Eaves took over as director after the first year because Roberts wanted to step down, and Naff-Eaves didn't want the camp to end. She had seen how beneficial it was for her 11-year-old son Jeremy, who was diagnosed with autism in 2003.
“Ever since my son was diagnosed I became an advocate and have tried my best to help others,” she said. “Taking over the camp felt like a kid just learning to swim. I learned a lot and got my sea legs and I learned a lot about what I liked and what worked.”
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