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Nova Southeastern University
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Camp Yofi brings Children with Autism and Families Together for Summer Fun

During the first week of August, a team of five from the Autism Institute at Mailman Segal Center headed for the mountains of Northern Georgia to help 26 families enjoy a week of summer camp.

Camp Yofi, now in its 10th year, is a camp for children with autism and their families. The five-day program is run by Camp Ramah Darom in Clayton, GA in partnership with NSU’s Mailman Segal Center. At Yofi, the children with autism are paired up with counselors who help them experience typical camp activities including swimming, arts and crafts, yoga, tower-climbing, and gardening, with the NSU staff providing guidance and professional support. Most of the young counselors are new to working with children with special needs but quickly learn how fulfilling it is. Over the past decade several of the staff have been inspired by the MSC professionals to pursue careers in special education and autism-related services.

The uniqueness of Camp Yofi is that the whole family gets to share in the fun. The neuro-typical siblings have their own counselors and activities, but the highlight for them is meeting other kids who are familiar with the challenges that autism can bring to family dynamics. Parents have a chance to relax , knowing that their children are safely and happily enjoying themselves, and even get to go out in the evenings for adult social activities — something they don’t usually get to do because of the lack of trained childcare. They also can attend informational sessions with Sue Kabot, director of MSC’s Autism Institute, and other educational programs. The bonds that are formed among the families and the entire staff during this special week last far beyond Camp Yofi.