This is a camp designed by an autistic preteen.

“Everyone is socially anxious and rather sit around and draw.  I don’t want to start the conversation or go to another kids to “make friends” because that is just too weird. No one does that.  The therapist can’t be too serious and can’t be too neurotypical. She has to do the talking about random things so there is no werid slience and if the conversation is interesting enough, I will join or I will just keep drawing. The conversation have to be random, so in case I miss something I won’t get lost or get left out.

Not everyone is friendship material.  I would have more success with kids who are anxious like me, who loves animal, love pets, loves to draw cute things, and talk about Pokamon but not Pokamon video game, just Pokamons.”
– The camp creator

Unlike our other camps which cater to big expressive loud expressions. We are envisioning a quieter and slower-paced group.

 How groups “happens” at Cherish:

We need a minimum of four and half preteens to join the group for it to go ahead. At the moment it looks like sessions will on Fridays at 4pm (exact date of first session to be confirmed). Length of session is also still up for discussion, but costs will be $60 per 60-minute session. or $90 per 90-minute session, prepaid.  It will be an in-person group.

This experience is group counselling and may be covered by eligible funding or extended benefits.

1. Can parents stay?
Creator: “Sure, I get it, but I don’t want the parents too close or “eye balls” us.”

Christine: We have groups where parents can participate directly along side of their children, such as the Anti-Social House. For this group, parents can stay but we are requesting that parents settle in an area with some distance and position their bodies away from the group to support children with exposure anxiety.

2. Can kids take a break or move around?

Creator: “Sure, but not too much. My sister runs around screaming and yapping. I don’t want that”

Christine: There is no expectation to sit around a table or participate in group activities. Children can engage in motion, lie facedown between beanbags, and bury themselves in the ball pit, read a book in cozy caves. The facility and the culture of Cherish Clinic are designed to be neurodivergent-centred which allows everyone to prioritize their comfort and wellness before social expectations.  However, this camp is designed for children who prefers calmer environment. We have a lot of other camps for those with big expressions.

3. My child needs help initiating conversation and scaffold friendship

Creator: “That is cringe. I don’t want that”

Christine: “Yes, we can’t make it too artificial. You want the relationship to develop more organically.”

Creator: “Yeah.”

Christine: “Do you like the way I do it with you? I just keep talking like this and sometimes you pick up and respond to it. Then, I talk some more from where you left off and maybe later you respond to that.”

Creator: “Yeah.”

Christine: “Then, the friendship part would just happen if there two people kind of “clicks”.”

Creator: “Hm…no.”

Christine: “I guess you would be pretty anxious if two other people clicked and you feel left out.”

Creator: “Yeah that won’t work.”

Christine: “But there is still me. How about if I get closer to you [scoot closer to increase bonding] like this?”

Creator: “…This is a bad idea”

Christine: “I guess it has been so long since I was a kid and I don’t have all the ideas of what kids like and how they make friends.  Sorry about the wrong guesses. The last time you had a friend: how many times did you hang out with them indirectly, before you knew they were “safe” enough to be a friend and for friendship to happen?

Creator: “Four times.”

Christine: “Would you be interested in drawing with me like we always do ….. but with other kids who are anxious in the same way as you are ……for four sessions?”

Creator: “Sure.”

4. Do they have to draw?

Creator: “No” [Looks uncomfortable].

Christine: How about if I offer a variety of activities, like the activities you already enjoy? The ASMR stuff… slime, modelling clay, peeling… People can choose what they want to do and not.

Creator: “Not too many”

Christine: “Yeah that would be chaotic.  How about four activities to choose from each time? I will keep the popular one and replace the one no one wants.”

Creator: “that’s chaotic”

Christine: “How I will try to read the room and pull one out and take them away according to everyone’s reaction”

Creator: “k”

5. Can they draw morbid things?

Creator: [Currently drawing a dead among-us in a puddle of blood.]

Of course, autistic people have different esthetics.  This is highly valued and appreciated here.