Img: Girl with damper/bread on a stickMy daughter Maisie is nine years old. Four years ago we were told that Maisie has autism.

While Maisie is verbal, she suffers from social anxiety and an acute separation disorder. Her autism means she often becomes fixated on routine and struggles to process complex emotions.

I wholeheartedly believe that outdoor recreation has been a significant cog in my daughter’s social development. 

Through my work as a disability support worker, I know that physically active leisure activities have been found to be a major contributor to feelings of health, wellness and a high quality of life for people with physical and intellectual disabilities.

I was sure that Maisie would really benefit from outdoor recreation ‐ so we decided to send Maisie on camp with
People Outdoors.

The decision to send Maisie on camp was not an easy one. She had grown bored of holiday programs and in‐house care activities and we desperately wanted to provide Maisie with an outlet where she could just have fun with the necessary support she needs.

Maisie was seven years old when she went on her first People Outdoors camp.

Like any parent, I was nervous about sending my young daughter away on camp for the first time. However, much to my relief, People Outdoors assured me that Maisie would be well assisted with a 1:1 care ratio.

So, at just seven years of age we sent Maisie on her first People Outdoors camp. We now know this was the best decision we could have made for her. Two years on, we (and of course Maisie) haven’t looked back.

Before going on camp, Maisie was reluctant to enjoy the great outdoors, participate in activities outside of her comfort zone or work with others.

Img: Girl supported by volunteers on low ropes courseThe camps provided by People Outdoors have improved Maisie’s confidence, built up her self‐esteem, curtailed her acute separation anxiety and challenged her fixation on having a set routine.

Maisie absolutely loves the volunteers she meets at the camps. Although she tends to find peer interaction difficult, meeting volunteers of all ages, has made her feel she is part of a friendship group.

For every camp that Maisie has been on she has come home with a new skill, a new friend, and an added reason to smile. I love that Maisie can go away for a weekend and ‘have fun without mum’.

I love that People Outdoors are so great at communicating with parents. One of the highlights of Maisie’s camps is when she comes home with a diary of photos showing us what she’s achieved on camp. To see her so happy in those photos gives us the best feeling.

The camps have also provided much needed respite for me – giving me time to focus on my two older children and my grandchildren.

I implore all parents and carers to consider the camps facilitated by People Outdoors, many of which are funded through the NDIS. The camps provide unparalleled outdoor recreational experiences in a supportive environment where people of all ages and abilities can enjoy the great outdoors to their full potential.