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April 17, 2012
CONTACT: K.E. Schwab


SRU, Butler YMCA sponsor ‘Camp ROCK’         

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. – Fifteen youth, ages 14 to 21 from regional school districts who are part of the autism spectrum will spend June 18-29 participating in Camp ROCK, a program designed by Elizabeth Kemeny, an instructor in Slippery Rock University’s physical education department, in collaboration with the Butler County Family YMCA.

           Camp ROCK, Recreational Opportunities Connecting Kids, now in its second year, “benefits both the participants with autism and our University students who gain hands-on, practical education skills,” Kemeny, and involved in SRU’s Adapted Physical Activity Program, said.

           Carrie Dunkowski at the Butler YMCA is collaborating with Kemeny in developing the day-camp program, which involves those with autism and typical peers. The program runs 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday at Armco Park.

            The term “autism spectrum” is used to describe a range of conditions that have been classified as pervasive development disorders, including autism, Asperger syndrome, pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified. Those with autism often exhibit social deficits, communication difficulties, stereotyped or repetitive behaviors and interests.

            “The daily programming will involve our graduate and undergraduate students as part of the camp staff,” Kemeny said. SRU students majoring in therapeutic recreation will use the sessions as their practicum requirement. A graduate student in adapted physical activity will co-direct the camp as part of her internship. A number of students enrolled in the adapted physical activity undergraduate minor will make up the bulk of the volunteers for the camp.

           SRU students majoring in social education and physical education will also participate in the camp.

           “The emphasis of the program is in providing transition skills and community integration as well as social skill development through physical activities for children with some form of autism,” Kemeny said. “We use physical activity as a vehicle to transition to community life.”

           Part of the activities will take place on the SRU campus with campers joining in rock climbing at the Robert N. Aebersold Student Recreation Center, fishing and playing tennis.

           Activities at Armco Park will include making use of the swimming pool, as well as Zumba and yoga sessions. There will also be hiking and bowling sessions during the activity-packed camp.

           “The students will also have music therapy sessions conducted by our music therapy majors, and we will be taking trips into the community. We want the campers to work on their independence, including making decisions and making choices,” Kemeny said.

           Like last year, participants were recruited from regional schools. “The major change this year is extending the program by a week. It was a suggestion promoted by the campers’ parents,” Kemeny said. “The program was initially designed after realizing there were programs for young children with autism, but not for teens. This program fills that void.”

           Peers of the students with autism are volunteers from area high school who may, or may not, know the camper they work with and serve as a mentor or friend to help promote social skill development during the camp.


Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania’s premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives. +-