Mary Katherine Murphy
The Autism Society of North Carolina will host its seventh annual Autism Summer Enhancement Program in July at North Laurinburg Elementary School.
Essie Davis, a parent advocate with the autism society, founded the program as a one-week affair in 2006 to provide continuity for children with autism spectrum disorder.
“With the break during the summer, sometimes they forget what they’ve learned during the school year,” said Velveta Dupree, a pre-kindergarten teacher at North Laurinburg who will assist in instructing the program this year.
This year’s Autism Summer Enhancement Program will span three weeks, from July 9-26, with classes meeting from 8 a.m. - 2:30 p.m. daily to model students’ school schedules.
Students will be grouped by age into three classes, each led by a teacher and a teaching assistant. In addition to Dupree, retired teacher Ann Gardner, I. Ellis Johnson pre-kindergarten teacher Chantress McNeill, I.E. Johnson kindergarten teacher Chaka Davis, North Laurinburg autistic students’ teacher Lorie Locklear, and Spring Hill Middle School autistic students’ teacher Nicole Pegues, will provide instruction.
“That’s what makes this program so different and special - our teachers are certified and trained in the field of autism,” Davis said.
The program will enroll some 20 students, aged from 5-20. Classes will include arts, crafts, and academic and computer skills as well as field trips. Past programs have taken field trips to the Parks and Recreation splash pad and other local activities.
Although all students can benefit from summer enrichment to help retain knowledge attained during the school year, autistic children particularly enjoy the restoration of a daily routine and social interaction.
“All of them have trouble socially and with communication - it’s good for them to get together with their friends that they know during the summer,” said Locklear.
“It helps with structure, too, in their lives - they really need structure and routine,” Gardner added.
The program is free.
For information, to enroll a child, or to sponsor a field trip or supplies, contact Davis at the autism society’s Laurinburg office at 277-2887.