SC State Museum provides autism training to Summer Camp Educators

The classes are provided by the SC Department of Disabilities and Special Needs.

COLUMBIA, SC (WOLO) — The South Carolina State Museum and the South Carolina Department of Disabilities and Special Needs are teaming up to offer training to the museum’s Summer Camp Educators, hoping to better serve children with autism and other special needs.

Laura Ybarra-Kane, Manager of Education and Interpretive Planning with the SC State Museum, says Summer Camp Educators are taking 60 hours of training, with half of those hours dedicated to children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.

“Sometimes that’s stemming out, where they might be flapping or need some headphones or something, how to use our tools, different teaching techniques, different things they can do. So, you know, removing a child from the classroom isn’t always what we want to do, they’re integrated, we’re all together, so we want to find ways to make them more comfortable in the classroom and that’s what DDSN is talking to us about today,” Ybarra-Kane says.

Stephanie Turner, Autism Division Director with the SCDDSN, says the training she provides to the museum’s summer camp instructors focuses on sensory sensitivities, behavior management techniques, and learning characteristics.

“Summer camp is really hard for some of our families to find where they feel their loved ones will go there and be taken care of, and their needs heard and met in that environment, and without expressly saying ‘This is a summer camp for individuals on the autism spectrum,’ — it’s a summer camp for everybody, and so wherever they are on the autism spectrum or otherwise they just feel welcomed here, and understood, and accommodated,” Turner says.

Madison Sutherland is a Summer Educator at the museum and says the nine-week summer camp program’s goal is to make any child feel welcome.

“Coming from an education background, you don’t get very much training on working with children with autism, so having a place where students are able to learn and adapt and grow as individuals and as students is an amazing opportunity for kids,” Sutherland says.

According to Ybarra-Kane, the museum offers other accommodations for children with autism spectrum disorder outside of summer camp, like fidget tools, and a sensory sensitivity room.

The museum also holds “Accessibility Mornings” from 9am to 11am on the second Saturday of every month.

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