The proposed Surf Camp is based on a successful pilot program run by Pediatric Psychology Associates during the summer of 2012. Pediatric Psychology Associates is a specialized pediatric psychology group private practice serving primarily the Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties in Florida. It is one of the largest and most successful practices in South Florida. Our practice as a whole specializes in the assessment and treatment of individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs). We are well known in our community and psychology field in general for our innovative programs, including our Social Skills/Understanding Group Programs (running throughout the school year), Summer Camps (running throughout the entire summer in various formats), and Multi-Disciplinary Developmental Clinic (arena assessments of early development of children ages 0 – 3 years). We are one of the few local psychology practices that are routinely invited to train and educate staff at public and private institutions in our area (from schools to hospitals). Although we primarily serve our local tri-county community, we frequently also work with international families and out-of-state families seeking specialty services (whether evaluations, consultations, or intensive time-limited interventions). Lastly, it should be mentioned that our practice was recognized by the University of Miami-Nova Southeastern University’s Center of Autism and Related Disabilities as the recipient the Outstanding Clinician of the Year award for 2010.
During the pilot summer Surf Camp of 2012, 10 children ages 8 - 14 with diagnoses of ASDs or related social challenges attended a one-week Surf Camp. Campers were screened for appropriateness during an initial interview with a licensed psychologist (children with severely aggressive behaviors who also were a flight risk were not accepted). The camp was held at the Surfside Community Center (Surfside, FL), which donated their facilities and would do so in the future in the event funds are granted to provide a similar camp to underserved populations.
A “Meet and Greet” for campers, their families, and camp staff was held on the weekend preceding the start of camp. At this “Meet and Greet” materials were distributed; camp rules and schedules were discussed; and campers became acquainted with one another, as well as with staff. The camp was held Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Campers were typically provided with a 1:1 or 2:1 ratio of camp participant to staff off water (during sand activities, breaks, lunch, etc.), depending on the participant’s level of functioning. There were 3 licensed psychologist specializing in the treatment of children with ASDs at the camp at all times, and all staff members (whether surf instructors or behavior support) received prior training on ASDs. There were also 3 typically-developing adolescents who also received training on ASDs, and who served as peer models. Daily activities included a morning meeting, followed by 30 minute surfing rotations (3 participants surfing at a time) alternating with periods of breaks where campers would hydrate, reapply sun block, and either socialize with other campers in an unstructured manner (build sand castles and other sand games) or participate in structured activities facilitated by behavior support staff (relay races, etc.). Campers would then socialize while having lunch, followed by afternoon activities, which would involve mostly pool time (this would be an inclusion opportunity since campers would join other children attending day camp at the Surfside Community Center), as well as indoor activities (arts and crafts, board games, movies, etc.). At the end of the week, a graduation ceremony would be held, where campers would be provided with surfing medals in honor of their accomplishments.
This Surf Camp, while very successful, was unfortunately not accessible to individuals with lower socioeconomic status due to fees involved, which would cover the costs of a high-quality camp to ensure the success and enjoyment of campers. With the financial support of this grant, this very successful camp could be replicated and made available to underserved populations (children affected with ASDs and qualifying for Medicaid, and those whose family’s annual income is under $50,000) and not previously served by our organization.