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Quest Camp Combines Summer Camp and Therapy for Children with Social, Emotional Challenges
By Elizabeth Waickman, Jewish Family & Children's Service

Parents of children with Autism-related challenges or other diagnoses such as Attention Deficit Disorder or anxiety may hesitate when considering summer camps, or may forgo the idea altogether, because many camps do not address their child's unique needs. For children with diagnoses including attention deficit disorder, anxiety, depression and high-functioning autism (previously labeled Asperger's Syndrome), Squirrel Hill Psychological Services (SHPS) and Quest Therapeutic Camps offer Quest Camp, a unique therapeutic summer day camp program for children ages 6 – 18. "Quest Camp exists in several other cities but is the first of its kind in Pittsburgh. It's different from a typical summer camp in that it's a therapeutic program that provides a supportive and welcoming environment, hourly verbal feedback on social and emotional goals chosen by campers and their families and traditional camp activities," said April Artz, Director for Quest Therapeutic Camp/Afterschool. "This is an option for parents of children who might slip through the cracks or struggle in a conventional summer camp program, but whose challenges are not appropriate for a special needs program."

Quest Camp offers campers a highly-structured and therapeutic curriculum with the look and feel of a typical summer camp, with daytime activities that include swimming, field trips, sports, and drama, music and science classes. At the same time, all activities follow a cognitive-behavioral approach designed to teach skills and reinforce positive changes in behavior to help children learn, grow and increase confidence.

"Quest Camp is not only extremely beneficial for our campers, but also provides support to the entire family," Artz said. "Parents have reported significant improvements in children's self-esteem, family relationships and interactions and conversational skills, as well as overall improvements in social and emotional functioning."

Quest Camp runs from June 22 – August 7, and is held at in Pittsburgh's East End. The program offers some scheduling flexibility, but campers must register a minimum of three consecutive weeks out of the seven weeks.

Campers also have the option of continued participation during the regular school year through the Quest After-School Program, a once-a-week after-school program designed to build on the gains made by campers during the summer.

"Parents should consider Quest Camp as a summer camp placement for their child if they have struggled in more traditional summer camp placements, or require a structured environment, or if they feel that their child is lagging behind their peers socially and/or emotionally" Artz said. "This is a program where kids who are on the social fringes at school and the community are able to finally experience an environment which is welcoming and accepting, but also challenges them to grow and improve."

For more information about the Quest Therapeutic Camp program, visit www.questcamps.com or call (800) 313-9733. For additional information about the Pittsburgh program, contact April Artz, Director for Quest Therapeutic Camp/Afterschool, at (412) 521-3800 or aartz@squirrelhillpsych.org.

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