Larissa has three beautiful children with bright blue eyes and enthusiastic personalities. A family picture shows them playing happily together.
The oldest of her children, nine-year-old Julian, was born with autism. Finding the right fit for a boy with autism – who processes differently and acts out unexpectedly – can be a challenge. “We love Julian so much and want him to have all the experiences in which other boys his age take part,” says Larissa.
Last summer, Larissa felt strongly that she wanted to enroll Julian in a Jewish summer camp. She found out about the Camp Milldale inclusion program, which partners youth with special needs with individual counselors to help them integrate into the regular camp setting and experience the joy of Jewish summer camp alongside peers of their own age.
“Julian had a truly amazing, fun and enriching summer,” says Larissa. “The director, Dori Zvili, and the Special Needs Coordinator, Stacey Israel, did a tremendous job in hiring absolutely amazing staff and providing the right kind of programming.”
Larissa is thoughtful. She is proud of her son. She struggles. But she is also very accepting of her situation. “I don’t have a profound message about kids with special needs,” she begins, “but I do know that it is essential that programs like Milldale’s inclusion program continue to exist in Jewish Baltimore. It is imperative for autistic children to learn life skills, interact, play and develop friendships in a warm and caring environment. This will help them live independently as they grow up. Camp Milldale, a program of the Jewish Community Center and THE ASSOCIATED, is just the place.”
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