Kids Like Us prepares for summer camps

The Kids Like Us community Center is preparing for their annual summer programs, but this year they have a few differences to make this a unique experience for all parties involved.

The center’s director, Lisa Lyons, said parents are often surprised when they drop their children off at the camp.

“The first words out of their mouth are they do not like other kids,” Lyons said. “It is astounding to parents to see their kid’s interaction with others.”

Kids Like Us, according to Lyons, is for any child who wants to come by, but she said their programs are particularly tailored towards children with mental disabilities like autism.

“[Kids with disabilities] often feel like the odd one out,” she said. “This will give people a new respect for each other.”

Kids Like Us is currently planning three different, week-long camps throughout the summer. One camp will feature cooking, art and music skills; another will focus on STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics), and a third is a space camp. Each will take place over the course of a week, two hours a day.

This is an expansion of scope compared to last year when Lyons said they ran out of room for registration within a week of announcing the camps.

Some of the new methods the center plans to utilize for this year’s camps include a virtual reality program called LiiNA, which will help children discover therapeutic methods of coping with stress while providing “accountable data” for researchers, thanks to East Tennessee State University.

Lyons said the camps will expand on life skills the center already teaches on a daily basis, skills that will help kids with disabilities figure out how to live in the adult world in a safe environment.

The camps are also a chance for kids with disabilities to interact with other people like them.

“I love watching the ‘anti-social’ kids be excited and laughing,” she said. “They all love it.”

In particular, she said the camp is an opportunity for children to take pride in themselves.

“Services are few in number as they get older,” Lyons said. “They can find a sense of belonging here.”

The center also provides a chance for non-verbal children to find ways of expressing their emotions in lieu of spoken dialogue.

For more information about the summer camps and other summer programs specifically, those interested can contact Lyons at 423-470-3410 or at kidslikeus.cindy@gmail.com.

Lyons said their center is not just for children with disabilities. She said anyone who is willing to attend is more than welcome to do so.

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