CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Summer camps are in full swing this year after the pandemic halted most of them last year.
For kids and young adults with disabilities, finding a camp that can accommodate their needs can be challenging.
Nikia Bye wanted her son, Malyk, to experience the same right of passage as most kids. He has autism, and Bye said she has had a hard time finding a camp that provides the right services and experiences for kids with special needs.
“I toured them, and I was not happy with them. The staff wasn’t trained; they didn’t understand how to deal with children with autism,” she said.
She decided if she couldn’t find the right camp, she’d create one. She founded Camp Trusted Parents nine years ago. She now serves as the camp director.
“I live it. Every day, I live it. So, I’m a parent, and I see what’s out there, and I see what’s needed,” she said.
Nikis Bye has three counselors on staff this summer and each counselor is trained to work with kids and adults with special needs. She said it’s important for the campers to be around kids like them and to socialize and connect with others.
“We as individuals who don’t have a disadvantage or a limitation, we need social interaction. So for us to think that they don’t need that, it’s not fair to them,” Bye added.
This year, there are only 12 campers due to pandemic restrictions. She said seeing the campers with smiles on their faces is the most rewarding part of her summer.
“I’m so full with gratitude. I’m humbled that parents trust me to care for their most prized possession, which is their children,” she said.
For parents that weren’t comfortable sending their kids to in-person camp, she created a virtual camp option called Camp in a Box.