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Camp Campus readies teens with Asperger's for college life

June 13, 2013

Editor's note: Members of the media are welcome to observe, videotape and photograph Camp Campus sessions June 13 and 14 at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. For schedule information and to learn more about Camp Campus, contact Emily Axelson, Camp Campus co-director, at 262-332-0194; Julia Miller, camp co-coordinator, at 715-836-4895 or millerja@uwec.edu; and Kay Hagedorn, camp co-coordinator, at 715-836-4054 or hagedoke@uwec.edu.

 EAU CLAIRE — Seven young adults with Asperger's syndrome spending this week at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire share the same goal: to enroll and continue their education in a post-secondary setting.

The six high school students and another student who has attended a two-year college are participants in Camp Campus, offered specifically for young adults who have completed their junior or senior years of high school and plan to go to college. The camp, run by UW-Eau Claire's Center for Communication Disorders, began June 9 and ends June 14.

"The focus of Camp Campus is to provide an immersion experience for young adults with Asperger's syndrome that will help the campers and their parents see the possibility of post-secondary education and to prepare them and strengthen the skills needed to succeed in that setting," said Kay Hagedorn, clinical assistant professor of communication sciences and disorders and Camp Campus co-coordinator.

Camp Camus participants will experience life on a university campus and use typical college services, including residence hall living, university dining services, a college debit card and recreational opportunities. Among the week's activities will be daily structured practice in social skills development, financial management sessions, fitness training with faculty from the university's kinesiology department, one-on-one meetings with faculty who teach in the students' academic areas of interest, and creation of electronic portfolios highlighting students' experiences during the six-day camp. Before meeting their parents for the camp's closing activities on Friday, participants will do their own laundry in the residence hall laundry room.

Twelve mentors, all UW-Eau Claire communication sciences and disorders students, are working with camp participants during the week's activities.

"Our mentors gain a great deal from the camp experience," Hagedorn said. "They gain knowledge about Asperger's syndrome, serve as role models for appropriate social behaviors and develop skills they will utilize throughout their careers when working with individuals with disabilities."

The mentors are led by two camp directors who are certified speech-language pathologists and graduates of UW-Eau Claire's communication sciences and disorders program — both of whom have used vacation time from their current jobs to work at Camp Campus for the past four years, Hagedorn said.

Camp Campus is now in its fifth year, and feedback from parents of camp participants has been positive, Hagedorn said.

"We have heard from a number of parents who have said that the camp experience was invaluable to their children as well as to them as parents," Hagedorn said. "A number of former campers are now very successfully attending UW-Eau Claire, where we have an ongoing support group through the Center for Communication Disorders."

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JP/DW

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