Camp Questions and Answers

AuSM Summer Camp 2023 FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions:

What is AuSM Summer Camp?

The Autism Society of Minnesota (AuSM) exists to enhance the lives of individuals and families affected by autism spectrum disorder (ASD), with a fundamental commitment to advocacy, education, support, collaboration, and community building.  AuSM camps serve autistic children and adults of all abilities and can usually accommodate the support needs of all campers. Camp programs are planned and operated utilizing the most promising practices for supporting autistic people, including low camper-to-staff ratios, succinct and direct expectations, visual schedules, a verbal notice of upcoming transitions, sensory accommodations, camper choice, and adaptive programming. All camp staff participates in comprehensive annual training that includes in-depth information about autism, proactive behavior management and support strategies, and the individual campers that they will be working with.

How much does the camp cost? Is the fee refundable?

One camp session (5 days) costs $1,600 – $1,700. If a camper cancels before the start of a camp session, a full refund will be issued. If a camper becomes sick at least three weeks prior to camp, a full refund will be issued. Please do not bring campers to camp if they are sick! Full or partial refunds beyond those described above will be determined by AuSM on a case-by-case basis.

How do I get into AuSM Summer Camp?

To apply for an AuSM Camp, you must first be a current member of the Autism Society of Minnesota or become a member online. If you are unsure whether you are a member of AuSM, call 651.647.1083. Members may then complete the Summer Camp Application. Campers are selected via a lottery system.

When should I apply? When is Camp?

Applications open in early January and close on February 15, 2023. AuSM Summer Camps take place June-August. Session dates are listed with camp descriptions below.

How does the camp lottery work?

All applicants are placed in a random lottery. Results will be announced on Wednesday, March 1, 2023. Applicants accepted to camp via the lottery system will then be able to register, pay or apply for a scholarship, and download all applicable forms and instructions. Applicants are not considered registered for camp until all camper forms have been completed and AuSM has communicated the camp placement.

Is there a waitlist?

Applicants who are waitlisted will be contacted if a spot becomes available.  Last year, every single camp session was able to accept campers from the waitlist, and this year we will be returning to full capacity. People who apply after the lottery has closed will automatically be added to the end of the waiting list.

What is Camp Discovery?

Camp Discovery is an overnight residential camp with a 1:4 staff-to-camper ratio.  To attend, campers must be independent in activities of daily living, such as dressing, toileting, and showering. Campers must be willing to stay with a small group during activities.

Camp Discovery is held at Courage North in Lake George, Minnesota, about 25 miles from Bemidji. Many campers pay for camp with Consumer Directed Community Supports (CDCS) waivers.

  • Session #1 (ages 15+) is Sunday, June 18th – Thursday, June 22nd.
  • Session #2 (ages 10-14) is Sunday, June 25th – Thursday, June 29th.

Fee per camper: $1600

What is Camp Hand in Hand?

Camp Hand in Hand is an overnight residential camp with a 1:1 staff-to-camper ratio. We welcome and serve campers of all abilities but are unable to provide extensive medical care.  If your camper has significant medical issues, please contact us to determine whether Camp Hand in Hand will be able to meet your camper’s needs.

Camp Hand in Hand is held at Camp Knutson in Crosslake, Minnesota. Many campers pay for camp with Consumer Directed Community Supports (CDCS) waivers.

  • Session #1 (ages 20-25) is Tuesday, June 27th – Saturday, July 1st.
  • Session #2 (ages 14-19) is Monday, July 3rd – Friday, July 7th.
  • Session #3 (ages 9-13) is Monday, August 7th – Friday, August 11th.
  • Session #4 (ages 26+) is Sunday, August 13th – Thursday, August 17th.

Fee per camper: $1700

What is AuSM Day Camp?

Due to continued pandemic-related programming restrictions at Camp Butwin, AuSM’s Day Camp will not be held in 2023. AuSM offers year-round social and recreation programs for youth, teens, and adults with autism.

Which AuSM Summer Camp is right for my camper?

Camp Discovery focuses on teaching and fostering self-advocacy. Discovery campers must be independent in their self-care, able to stay with a group, and able to interact positively with a small group. The Camp Discovery staff-to-camper ratio is 1:4. If these requirements are difficult for the camper, Hand in Hand, with a 1:1 staff-to-camper ratio, might be a better fit.

Camp Hand in Hand is designed to be accessible to all campers. If your camper has difficulty with group activities, needs assistance toileting or bathing, can become violent or aggressive during meltdowns, or has a history of elopement, Hand in Hand may be a better option. Consider the sorts of settings the camper thrives in as you choose between Hand in Hand or Discovery.

AuSM does not turn campers away or send campers home unless the program lacks sufficient staff resources, space, and skill to serve the camper.

Do I have to live in Minnesota to send my child to AuSM Summer Camp?

You do not have to live in Minnesota for your camper to participate in a camp, but AuSM reserves the right to prioritize campers from Minnesota in accordance with our mission to serve the Minnesota autism community.

Can my camper attend more than one week of camp?

No. Due to the high demand for residential camp spots, campers may attend only one week of residential camp.

Do waivers apply?

Yes, waivers can be applied to the cost of the camp. Most campers pay for camp with Consumer Directed Community Supports waivers (CDCS). This is the only type of waiver that can be used to pay for our overnight camps.  A small number of our campers have also received partial scholarships or grants from programs in their counties or from tribal nations. By registering for an AuSM camp you agree to pay in full any amount not covered by the third-party payer.

Are there scholarships available?

Scholarships for AuSM Camps and other programs are available for those who qualify. Camp scholarship applications are available after the lottery. To apply for a camp scholarship, select the “scholarship” button on the camp payment form and answer all associated questions. AuSM staff review scholarship submissions in mid-April and designate available funds to applicants based on financial need and extenuating circumstances.

Does my camper need to get a physical to attend camp?

Camper physicals are required for Camp Hand in Hand and Camp Discovery. AuSM accepts physicals completed within 12 months of the camp start date. This information will be collected in the registration forms after the lottery has been completed and is not required for the application. Any camper with incomplete registration paperwork is at risk of forfeiting their spot at camp.

How should I bring camper medications to camp?

All prescription medications and over-the-counter medications must arrive at camp in their original packaging, with labels intact, and stored in one or more Ziploc bags.

The registered nurse at camp can only give medications to patients under the orders of a physician.  Those orders are clearly printed on the packages that the pharmacy uses to distribute prescriptions. Put all prescription bottles in a sealed bag and write the camper’s name on the bag in permanent ink. Over-the-counter medications need to also list the contents and dosing information. For example:  Doe, John – melatonin. Large, bulk packaging is not permitted, nor are weekly pill containers. Prescription medication can be packetized by your pharmacy by request at no cost to you. This is the easiest way to ensure your medications are prepared correctly and can improve safety by ensuring each dose is protected, labeled, and secure.

What should campers bring to camp?

You will receive a recommended packing list that doubles as an inventory of personal belongings.  Include a copy of the completed inventory inside your camper’s luggage. Write your camper’s name at the top of the camp packing list and indicate how many of each item you are bringing to camp so that campers and staff have a list to work from when re-packing as the session ends. Please note that laundry facilities at camp are very limited and can only be used to wash camper clothing on an emergency basis. Label everything with a permanent marker.  Do not bring anything that is expensive, or irreplaceable. Take the time to inventory belongings before you leave the grounds.  The sooner you are aware that something is missing, the more likely it is to be found. Lost and found items from camp will be stored at the AuSM offices in St. Paul.  The owners of identifiably labeled items will be notified. Unclaimed items will be donated after ten days.

How do you ensure camper safety?

Your camper will be in the hands of dedicated, loving adults whose goal is to share the joy of camp. All campers will be supervised, supported, included, and listened to. We will ensure that campers receive medications, drink plenty of water, eat at every meal, brush their teeth every day, etc. There will always be a counselor nearby in case your camper wants or needs help.  Parents and guardians will be contacted in the event of injury or to be kept apprised of any difficulties or interventions. AuSM does not practice restraint techniques. Only staff with specialized training and certification – usually licensed special education teachers – will ever use a supportive restraint technique with a camper, and they will only do so when all other strategies have been exhausted and there is imminent risk of camper harm to self or others.

Can parents/guardians visit the camp?

Parents and guardians are not permitted to visit or stay at the overnight camp. In addition to practical considerations, such as lodging, the presence of camper’s families may undermine the developmental opportunities afforded by an overnight camp experience. If a camper is having a tough time at camp or is asking for parents, we will call you to tell you what is going on and to give your camper a chance to hear from you.

What is the food like? What if a camper has dietary restrictions or food preferences?

Each camp employs attentive local cooks who intentionally design the camp menu around foods that are popular amongst campers, and they find gluten-free and vegetarian versions of those same foods for campers with dietary restrictions.  Prior to camp, you will receive a menu of all items that your camper will be served. If you see a meal on the menu that you know your camper won’t eat, you will be able to provide an alternative meal in its place.  Kitchen staff can store your prepared meal in the kitchen, heat it up, and serve it to your camper in place of the meal you indicate.

Can I work at Camp?

Camp staff applications will be available online in early January. Staff who have worked previous summers are welcome and encouraged to notify us of their availability at any time. People who are interested in working at the camps can learn more online at or by contacting us. All positions receive a small stipend in gratitude for their time and commitment to camp.

Current open positions include:

  • 40 counselors for each session of Camp Hand in Hand
  • 6+ Program Staff/Group Leaders for each session of Hand in Hand
  • 6+ Cabin Support People for each session of Camp Discovery
  • 1 Nurse for each camp session. RN, NP, PA, or MD required.

Learn more about currently available positions here.

I still have questions, who should I contact?

Please direct questions to the Director of Camp Programs, Melinda Harris at 651.647.1083 ext. 116, or via email at



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