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Nonprofit to provide modified summer camp fun for kids with special needs

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Indianapolis nonprofit Easterseals Crossroads is trying to create a sense of normalcy this summer for children who have lost their structure and routine due to COVID-19.

Children who have autism or other disabilities may find e-learning a bit more challenging to adapt to. So Easterseals Crossroads representatives said they are working to make adjustments to give kids some summer fun. But COVID-19 social distancing restrictions may make for a less exciting time.

Easterseals Crossroads is a nonprofit that provides services to people with disabilities. They’ve had to cancel all summer camps.

David Dreith, the president of the nonprofit, said operations just haven’t been the same over the last few months and some of its youngest clients are feeling it the most.

“It’s been very stressful for them; their routine has been turned upside down,” he said.

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“A lot of our kids do better when they have a schedule and they have that routine, and obviously with schools closing, a lot of their routine was lost,” said director of autism and behavioral services Tracy Gale.

Many of the children, particularly those on the autism spectrum, have faced challenges with switching to e-learning for school. And the services they’ve grown used to getting at Easterseals Crossroads have gone digital, too.

“Our youngest learners are probably the ones struggling the most with that because they don’t understand everything that is happening,” Gale said.

Summer camps provide a special type of enrichment for all children, especially when adapted to a child’s specific abilities.

While COVID-19 dangers have shut down the traditional camps held by Easterseals Crossroads, representatives are trying something else.

“So we’ve kind of been beta-testing so can we do some meaningful activities at people’s homes,” Dreith said. “We’ve had a couple of our camp staff go to various homes and try some activities to make sure they are meaningful.”

They are also looking into providing smaller group sessions at area parks.

Due to COVID-19, the organization also says it is receiving less funding.

They still encourage families to reach out to see what summer programs might still be available for kids.

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