PARK TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — A first-of-its-kind sailing camp for children with autism completed its three-day summer session near Holland Monday.
Spectrum Sailing is a nationally recognized autism sailing camp that started six years ago after its founder, Scott Herman, learned his son, who is on the spectrum, was not allowed to join traditional sailing schools.
“My son Daniel is diagnosed with autism. He is now 15,” Herman said. “And when we moved back to Charleston six years ago, there wasn’t a program there that would let him come to sailing camp. So my wife and I decided we should start a camp locally.”
The camp was so successful that Herman and his wife founded a nonprofit to bring a similar experience to families and kids across the United States.
“This is the first year we’re here in Holland,” he said “We’re in eight cities this year and we’re excited to add Holland as one of our locations for spectrum sailing.”
While the three-day camp is free to families who participate, Herman says it depends on the local volunteers and sponsors to make it all possible.
“We had more kids (apply) than we had room for, honestly. Macatawa Bay Junior Association has been a great host,” he said. “Obviously, we have a beautiful venue to sail, and the weather has been incredibly fantastic while we’re here. So really no complaints while we’re here in Holland. This is awesome.”
Each sailing group is paired with seasoned sailors and behavioral specialists to ensure a smooth transition from land to sea.
For students like Charlize Rants, Saturday was her first experience on a boat. While she was “nervous and terrified” initially, she told News 8 that learning the fundamentals of sailing and sailboats helped her understand that “the keep keeps us from tipping over.”
Herman said there is a secondary side effect of these sailing schools: families on-shore sharing their own best practices and resources for their kids.
“As much as I love that we’re teaching these kids to sail and actually run the boats and know the parts of the boats and how to make the boat work,” he said. “What I really think the value is in our program is that these kids feel included and can come here in a safe space to build their confidence and self-esteem.”