Camp in Duluth helps kids develop better social skills

By KBJR News 1

July 15, 2014 Updated Jul 15, 2014 at 8:23 AM CDT

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) --- A camp in Duluth is helping kids with autism develop better skills in many areas of their lives.

The Pieces Of the Puzzle or POP Camp is in its fourth year helping kids to develop their social skills.

"Our camp is just structured a little differently in that we have smaller numbers and a higher staff to camper ratio" said Program Coordinator, Mark Hanna.

The smaller groups in which the kids work allow them to better connect which often leads to lasting friendships.

"They last forever. They come here and they meet kids just like them and then they take away that friendship and then it's fun to come back the next day and then see how they connected the day before and they might not have known each other until they came to camp and then all of a sudden you see them drawn to each other" said Program Director, Jill Pring.

The camp is continually growing in popularity, having gone from 20 to 40 campers since its start in 2010 and there's now a waiting list.

"Certainly they get excited about the archery and cycling and the different arts and crafts activities that we do, cooperative games are always popular as far as team building" said Hanna

Each activity focuses on a how to gain better social skills.

"You know they have struggles in school obviously, but they come here and they realize that everybody here struggles, but they have strengths" said Pring.

While these kids may have difficulties socially, they excel in their imagination and creativity. For example, they might joke with you about eating belly button sandwiches.

"I've never eaten belly buttons before, what do they taste like?"

Or teach you something that you wouldn't expect.

"Actually, abstract art is the basis of cubism... it's what made cubism" said camper, Michael.

Kids from all over the Northland attend the camp, coming from as far away as Cornucopia, Wisconsin, which may be an indicator of its success at putting together the pieces of a challenging social puzzle...

Parents also say after a day at the camp they see a big difference in their children.
The POP Camp is full for volunteers this year, but say they could always use more next summer.

Bryce Henry