MIDDLEWAY – The foundation for Eastern Panhandle Indigo Children has announced two important summer programs.

Thanks to support from the BCT Harpers Ferry Half Marathon, the Eastern Panhandle communities and an Autism Speaks grant, EPIC will offer its popular Blue Ribbon Recreation Program for the fifth year.

The camp is now fully funded by the support received from the BCT Harpers Ferry Half Marathon and 5K. By supporting the Harpers Ferry Half Marathon, you are helping a child on the autism spectrum enjoy an inclusive camp experience in our region. To register for the May 9 race, go to harpersferryhalf.org.

The camp is designed for persons of all ages and abilities on the autism spectrum to enjoy an inclusive summer camp environment. To deliver this, EPIC has partnered with Jefferson County Parks and Recreation allowing individuals with autism to enjoy summer camp and other recreational activities one-on-one with specially trained aides. These aides are paid in full by EPIC and are trained in communication and assimilation.

It is important to note that the Blue Ribbon Recreation Program accepts all applicants on the spectrum who wish to enroll in Jefferson County Parks and Recreation classes and camps throughout the summer. Moreover, the program enables all persons on the spectrum to enjoy the same opportunities of the typical participant but with the necessary effective assimilation and inclusion support.

This program is a singular opportunity for all members of the autism community. In the past four years, more than 100 members of the community have participated.

Here are examples of the exit survey responses from parents after their children took part in the program:

“This program helped my 10-year-old son be able to participate in camp for the first time in his life. He was happy and wanted to go back each day.”

“My son was afraid to leave me at first, but the trained aide assigned to him bonded quickly with him. By Day Two, the separation anxiety was minimal. The trained aide had several strategies to keep him engaged and included.”

“Our daughter took a tumbling class as part of the BRRP. The experience helped her gross motor development improve. Now she can do a somersault.”

“Our son enjoyed his day camp experience. I had piece of mind because he was with a trained aide, Iwas able to get some respite while his was a happy camper.”

These responses show how essential are the trained aides working one-on-one with each child participating in the BRRP, that each child with his or her unique challenges on the spectrum benefitted in some way so that they felt they had accomplished something positive and that the parents experienced a peaceful but important respite as caregivers.

Those parents with family members on the spectrum who have recently moved to this area or are learning about the program for the first time should consider enrolling their child for this very worthwhile experience.

In addition to the Blue Ribbon program, the Eastern Panhandle Autism Summit will take place July 27 and 28 at the Robert C. Byrd Health Science Center in Martinsburg.

EPIC holds the summit each year in collaboration with Marshall University’s Autism Training Center, the West Virginia University medical school and the staff of the Robert C. Byrd Health Science Center.

EPAS has been established to strengthen education,awareness, medical services and first responder support for the well-being of people living with autism in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia.

This year, this unique summit will provide autism education and outreach training conducted by Marshall University Autism Training Center experts to discrete populations in our Eastern Panhandle community including Jefferson County public school teachers and paraprofessionals serving in Child Protective Services, law enforcement and fire protection.

Dr. Sarah Moerschel, associate professor of pediatrics at WVU med school, and Carolyn Vigil, co-founder of EPIC, are the co-directors of the summit.

– Frederick H. Brigham Jr. lives in Middleway. He serves on EPIC’s advisory board

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