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Unique Camp Strikes A Chord With Teens With Autism

By Kathy Walsh

GREENWOOD VILLAGE, Colo. (CBS4) - A half dozen teenagers are in camp this week making musical instruments. It is a one of a kind experience all about the skills.

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All of the campers are on the autism spectrum. All are learning new trade skills and building toward success.

Lilly Roberts, 16, is learning to work a circular saw. Other teenagers try different tools.

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"It's actually really fun," said camper Hudson Teuscher.

They're in the midst of making ukuleles.

"I really like it because I'm working with my hands," explained Lilly.

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They've already built box drums called cajons. But it's not so much the music that matters.

"They're learning math. They're learning sanding. They're learning instrument safety, tool safety," said Danny Combs, Founder of T.A.C.T., Teaching the Autism Community Trades.

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Danny Combs (credit: CBS)

This is F.U.S.E camp, which stands for Fostering Unlimited Success and Empowerment. It is for ages 12 to 16.

The camp is run by T.A.C.T. and Star Institute for Sensory Processing Disorder which concentrates on social skills and sensations.

"How to cope with sounds and feelings and sights that might not be comfortable for their body," said Bridget Henn, occupational therapist with Star Institute.

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F.U.S.E is about people with autism gaining confidence and discovering an interest.

"Maybe I could build something when I get home," said 13-year-old Hudson.

And maybe it will shape a teen's future.

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"The autism community is the highest unemployed group in the country," said Combs.

The hope is camps like this, offering real world skills, can strike a chord that leads to a future career.

F.U.S.E. Camp was made possible through a grant from Developmental Pathways. According to Star Institute, the goal of the grant is to enhance and increase respite options for caregivers of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and delays while increasing the comfort level of caregivers who have not before trusted or used respite providers.

Criteria for camp:

Live within Douglas or Arapahoe County
Ages 12-16
Autism diagnosis

Kathy Walsh is CBS4's Weekend Anchor and Health Specialist. She has been with CBS4 since 1984. She is always open to story ideas. Follow Kathy on Twitter @WalshCBS4.

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