Staff Photo: John Bohn Katie Booth paints a horse name Rocky during an art camp for children with autism held Thursday in Lawrenceville. The camp allows campers to brush brightly colored paints on live horses provided by Joelle Pinto, center, of Kicking Back Stables in Monroe.
LAWRENCEVILLE -- With a steady hand, 12-year-old Jason Resnick made circular brushstrokes, applying washable, non-toxic paint to the hair of a young horse.
Resnick, a young man with mild autism, was one of more than 60 who took their turn painting real, live horses during a summer camp Thursday devoted to helping people with the disability overcome some of its challenges.
During the Spectrum Autism Support Group's second week of camp, staff asked campers to focus on art. Camp participants included young people with autism from all over the spectrum -- from the high-functioning individuals with Asperger's to the lower functioning, nonverbal students.
Many of the campers, including Resnick, said they enjoyed the activity. "I liked painting the horses," he said, adding that horses are one of his favorite animals, second only to "tigers, lions, sharks, alligators and crocodiles."
The Creekland Middle School student said he had a good day at camp Thursday, and what made it even better: it was his birthday.
Spectrum Autism Camp
Scenes from Spectrum Autism Support Group's camp, as campers paint horses.
Camp counselor Janelle Clarke sang an operatic rendition of "Happy Birthday" to the smiling boy as she helped him paint one of the horses. Clarke said the activity was "therapeutic" for those with autism.
"They see an easygoing animal, and it encourages them to approach it and be gentle to it," Clarke said. "It helps them with those social skills ... being gentle."
Autism is a developmental disorder that appears in the first three years of life. It affects the brain's normal development of social and communication skills.
The camp, which was sponsored by nonprofit KidStuff, focuses on a curriculum of assisting with social skills.
Mary O'Connell, a program consultant for the Spectrum Autism Support Group Camp, said Thursday's activity was "an opportunity for the kids that they might not usually encounter. They get to get close to the horses, and they have to learn that they must be calm and gentle."
O'Connell added that it helps children more severely affected by autism with the motorskills such as holding a paintbrush and painting with it.
Jacob Sergio, 7, could hardly wait to get his hands on a paintbrush Thursday. The young Duncan Creek Elementary student said he looked forward to it, but his favorite part of the day was getting to spend time in the pool.
Camp counselors set up inflatable pools all around the camp, where the kids splashed around and relaxed.
"The water is fun," Sergio said. "The lunch is kind of good, too."
According to its website, Spectrum Autism Support Summer Group Camp aims to "enrich and enhance the physical, emotional, social development of children, teenagers and young adults with Autism/Asperger's within a safe, warm, caring and stimulating day camp community."
For more information about Spectrum, visit www.atl-spectrum.com.