Aaron’s Acres Programs – so much more than just a fun time!

We’re all about having a fun time at Aaron’s Acres, but program is so much more!

Did you know that we have programs all year? Not only do we have a summer camp program, but we also have a monthly School Year Program.

Let’s take a look at Aaron’s Acres’ programs and all that they provide for participants beyond just having a great time with friends.

Aaron’s Acres Programs… so much more than just a fun time!

The team at Aaron’s Acres often hears, “So, you run a summer camp for kids with disabilities… they must have so much fun!” Yes, we have an awesome summer camp program, but we also have monthly programming during the school year. And while the participants have fun, program is so much more!

Picture a child creating an art project using glue, pom-poms, construction paper, markers, pipe cleaners and googly eyes.

Throughout this activity, the child is working on his fine motor skills; he is having fun, but at the same time, he is developing and strengthening other skills. As the child creates his project, he might need glue. The 1:1 or 1:2 staff to child ratio ensures that a staff member can support and assist the child in asking for the glue from another participant. Communication and socialization skills are areas of focus during program. A participant is certainly having a good time when he is making an art project, but he is also learning to ask for help, share supplies and take turns.

Now, picture a child participating in a scavenger hunt, a game of kickball or doing an obstacle course.

Running, jumping, and throwing or kicking a ball are all gross motor activities that participants do while they are having fun. Staff can support and assist each child’s ability to engage in these gross motor activities.

During summer camp, “specialists” are a meaningful part of the overall camp experience.

A music therapist visits twice a week and ensures participation from everyone in different ways, depending upon the child’s abilities and disabilities.

For the child who doesn’t communicate verbally, he can participate with the group and play a musical instrument or dance with a colorful streamer as the music plays along in the background.

Aaron’s Acres partners with Fitness for Focus — a program that focuses on promoting physical fitness and exercise through overall health for children and adults with cognitive and developmental challenges. Children take part in a variety of exercises and activities with their peers, regardless of their mobility.

For the child who uses a wheelchair, staff might support the child on each side (when out of the wheelchair) and help her complete an obstacle course or assist in moving her legs and arms to complete the assigned exercises. 

A petting zoo and reptile rescue organization visit camp which can help to develop and strengthen a child’s socialization and communication skills.

Animals are often seen as unconditionally accepting creatures that provide support and comfort to children and adults. This support encourages participants to interact and engage in activities with the visiting animals and with their peers.

One group that meets during the summer is A-TEAM. This group is comprised of adolescents, ages 13-21, with high functioning Autism. Their activities focus on team bonding and collaborative experiences. For example, a group effort to build a boat out of cardboard and duct tape or going kayaking.

For two years, this group has had the opportunity to scuba dive, something that many of them would have not been able to do within the general community.

Our staff and the scuba diving specialists demonstrated patience and understanding as they worked with our campers. They realized that many of them were anxious and needed a decent amount of time to feel comfortable with this experience before trying it themselves. At Aaron’s Acres, we have the time, the patient staff, and the supportive environment to allow these experiences to result in positive memories for everyone!

Snack is a favorite time for many at camp. Often the participants are asked to create the snack based on the daily theme.

Creating a beach ball snack for beach day might consist of a sugar cookie, icing with food coloring (for different colors of icing) and string licorice.

This is a fun, interactive activity but at the same time, fine motor skills are at work. Staff encourage the participants to engage in conversation with their group while making and eating their snack. Participants gain a sense of accomplishment and pride as they have a finished a task and now get to enjoy the results — a delicious snack!

Outings in the community allow our participants to engage in activities such as bowling, going on rides at Hershey Park, miniature golf and having fun on an all-accessible playground.

For some, these experiences are new. We are more easily able to manage helping each participant to feel comfortable in these new and unfamiliar settings because our low staff to child ratio.

Interacting with community members through our Acts of Kindness (AAAOK) program often results in a sense of confidence and increased self-esteem as the participants are helping others, rather than being seen as recipients of services. 

Yes, Aaron’s Acres is all about having fun, but it is SO MUCH MORE!