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Children with autism find 'New Amigos' at NMSU camp

Children with autism often face challenges when it comes to communication and social skills. At New Mexico State University, Camp New Amigos provides children with autism spectrum disorders a safe, structured environment where their challenges won't stop them from having summer fun.


During archery practice two children stand holding their bows and ready to release their arrows while two other children and two instructors look on.
Children practice their newly learned archery skills at NMSU's Camp New Amigos. (NMSU photo by Melisa P. Danho)

The camp, which took place this week, is part of the outreach efforts made by NMSU's Departments of Special Education and Communication Disorders and has been offered for the last three years. This year camp director and NMSU assistant professor Kathleen Cronin said she is excited the children are getting a chance to participate in new activities that include a rock-climbing wall, kayaking, archery and swimming.

"We want to provide a typical camp experience with the types of activities you would find at any other camp," said Cronin. "We want to give children with autism a safe place to interact with each other and have typical peers as role models with the goal being to play with one another."

According to the advocacy organization Autism Speaks, autism disorders affect 1 in 88 children and is the fastest growing serious developmental disability in the U.S. Cronin said the NMSU camp has quadrupled in size since its inception and hopes resources available for children with autism in Southern New Mexico will expand.

"We're really grateful for our partners Hearts for Autism which does fundraising for the camp and the Mariposa Autism Service Center whose employees help plan activities, supervise kids and work as councilors," Cronin said. "We are also grateful to Lowe's for coming out and helping the children build wooden projects."

Also working with the children are NMSU undergraduate and graduate students, some of whom are working toward advanced degrees with a concentration in autism spectrum disorders under the New Mexico Preparing Autism Spectrum Specialists grant which was secured at NMSU by Cronin.

"All of our staff is trained to work with the children's special needs," said Melinda Shane, an NMSU doctoral student and assistant director at Camp New Amigos. "Our counselors are bringing a lot of knowledge and varied experiences which is great."

Those seeking more information about Camp New Amigos can contact Cronin at kacronin@nmsu.edu.