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June 14, 2011
CONTACT: Gordon Ovenshine
Office: 724.738.4854
Cell: 724.991.8302

Camp R.O.C.K. helps teen with autism improve skills

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. – For children with autism, a developmental disorder that affects communication, the world can be a difficult place. To help adolescents with autism improve their social skills, independence and physical activity levels, Slippery Rock University will offer its first Camp R.O.C.K. (Recreational Opportunities Connecting Kids) June 20-24.
      SRU faculty and students in the undergraduate and graduate adapted physical activity program will offer swimming, yoga, Zumba and climbing wall activities on campus along with hikes, fishing and boating expeditions at Moraine State Park.
        SRU received a $139,401 grant from the U.S. Department of Education Rehabilitation Services Administration for Camp R.O.C.K. The federal agency oversees grant programs helping people with physical and mental disabilities obtain services aimed at promoting independence and employment.
      Sixteen adolescents with autism and 15 campers who do not have autism have enrolled in the camp. Participants are ages 14-21.
       “One unique aspect of the camp is the use of peer mentor campers to promote social interaction for the campers with autism,” said Betsy Kemeny, SRU instructor of physical education and camp coordinator. “The camp is fairly unusual because it is recreation focused and focuses on adolescents with autism.”
       Robert Arnhold, SRU professor of physical education, said the program targets teenagers in transition years because “teens with disabilities are preparing for life after high school. Programs aimed at independent physical activity participation are extremely important for the long haul.”
       According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one of every 100 children in the U.S., are diagnosed with autism. Autism, Asperger syndrome and pervasive developmental disorder are the three disorders in the autism spectrum.
       Kemeny and Jesse Solomon, an SRU adapted physical activity graduate student from Pittsburgh, developed the camp over the past five months.
      SRU’s adapted physical activity curriculum prepares graduates to devise and manage physical activity sessions for children and adults with mental and physical disabilities. The program offers weekly activity sessions with community clients, the “I Can Do It, You Can Do It” program and a summer VIP Sports Camp for children with blindness and visual impairment.  
       I Can Do It, You Can Do It, partners SRU students with community residents for weekly activity sessions at the Grove City and Butler YMCA facilities. SRU also operates the Storm Harbor Equestrian Center, which provides equine-assisted activity programs for those with disabilities, and is involved in Special Olympics on campus.

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.