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Bittersweet Farms brings back in-person summer programs for individuals with autism

The camp is thrilled to return to in-person after “nightmare” trying to adapt to virtual experience
Published: Apr. 15, 2021 at 11:42 AM EDT
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - One group that really paid the price in the virtual learning atmosphere was individuals who relied on non-verbal communication, including children and adults with autism. Thankfully, now in-person opportunities can open back up to assist this community.

For the first time in more than 20 years, Bittersweet Farms had to transition their summer enrichment programs to the screens, making it nearly impossible to assist their community. But the team says that’s all about to change, as they welcome campers back onto the property. They couldn’t be more thrilled.

Counselors at Bittersweet Farms specialize in using their summer camp resources with more than 80 acres of property and an endless list of hands-on activities to assist adults and children with autism. They work on building social, communication, and relationship skills, along with helping individuals maintain some of the skills they learn throughout the school year.

Their one-of-a-kind camp uses animal therapy with mini horses, sheep, goats, and various programs including gardening and horticulture, arts, and aeorboic and sports activities to provide a truly unique experience.

But they rely on non-verbal communication and hands-on approaches, which Day Program Director Steve Mentrek says made this virtual year a nightmare.

“Without having that external support, that place to go to during the summer, many families were left all alone, having to balance in the house. It was great to be able to provide those virtual activities and things, but a parent’s always going to be a parent if you can’t get that opportunity to allow those other professionals to come and support and give you that respite relief you need as a parent,” Mentrek said. “So, we’re really excited to get to provide that not only for the students but for the parents as well.”

And it’s the routines they are most excited for in helping campers get back on and establish, keeping individuals with autism engaged and on track.

“For those with autism, routines, schedules and structures are a huge component of being successful and not falling victim to some of the challenges autism can represent,” Metrek said.

“So with that, when you have interruptions over the past year when you can barely predict what’s going to happen over the past month, this has really set back a snowball effect almost for some of the folks we’ve worked with, surprisingly enough.”

Registration is now open, but this year it’s limited to about half capacity and it is on a first come first serve basis, so interested families should go to bittersweetfarms.org to apply, email info@bittersweetfarms.org or call 419-875-6986.

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