Resources for Children with HF Autism, Asperger’s and ADD/HD

December 12th, 2017 by Charis Hills Admin

There are so many more resources available today than even a few years ago.  As parents and grandparents, we want to be up to date and to try our best for our children.  If you haven’t already, I encourage you to check out these out.
by Colleen Southard

The Autism Asperger’s Digest is a quarterly print and digital magazine created for teachers, therapists and family members who face the challenge of autism.  While it shares current information from professionals, it also has inspiring stories.  These are magazines that you want to keep to refer back to or just to read to be encouraged!

Dr. Kay Trotter designed Behavioral Health University after recognizing the need for better  and engaging training for clinicians, educators and parents.  She has developed an on-line training program on a variety of topics so that parents as well as professionals in the field can learn any time, any where.    Her Guide to Parenting A Child With ADHD assists parents in fleshing out what is normal child behavior or ADHD.   I found this guide to answer many of the questions that I hear frequently from parents.  This is very useful, practical information particularly prior to assessment or when trying to decide on treatment or approach.  Parenting A Child with ADHD

The online training offers up to date training for parents and professionals through educational video trainings.  They are great resources on a variety of topics for parents, therapists and educators alike.

ADDitude Magazine.  ADDitude Magazine is a very helpful quarterly print and online publication that has lots of information on ADHD and other learning disabilities.

That One Thing

December 5th, 2017 by Charis Hills Admin

“I’ll never forget the sight of them praying together, arms entwined around shoulders, tears flowing, on their knees, and bowed before God”.

The young people who come to camp with us at Charis Hills are really great folks. Most of them however, have a hard time making friends in school and don’t have a large social circle, some have very little social time with others. Many, if not most, will find solace and success in electronic gaming, or activities where the academic challenge meets their interest needs and people don’t bother them. They spend days alone, often creating hardship for families who want to socialize but can’t find ways for their children to “fit in”.

I’ve seen the heartache of this group of kids labeled HFA (High Functioning Autism) trying to make friends, trying to fit in, trying to find ways to learn to be “socially appropriate”.

I have heard it said that these campers can’t make friends. I have been asked why we run this camp. Why choose to run a camp for children with Autism.

It was last summer that I watched a group of teens, all with HFA, all of whom had been to camp numerous times come together again for the “camp experience”. I stood quietly at the back of the crowded campfire area and listened to the songs, listened to the talk, and then I saw it. I saw why I do what I do here at camp. I saw the reason we all spend months and months hiring the staff, ordering the t-shirts, mowing the lawn, maintaining the buildings, fixing leaky faucets, mopping the floors, and setting up chairs. I saw it.

A group of these “HFA” campers, kids who “don’t make friends” were huddled together, arms around each other, crying, proclaiming their friendship, making plans to see each other again next summer, exchanging email and phone numbers and. praying together. That’s why we do it. Those campers found friends, and found Christ. And all the time, and all the effort, and all the money, became worth it, in that one moment.

That’s the “One Thing”. It’s acceptance. The Greek word is “charis”. It means acceptance / grace. It’s what our God gives us when we fail to be like Him. Those teens found a place where people don’t expect them to be anything but what they are. They found that they have like interests and are challenged to find new interests. These campers have cheered for each other at talent show, laughed with each other at the dinner table, cried with each other when things went wrong and supported each other when someone was down and out. They participated with others, touched the hearts of the other kids and the counselors, and they listened to Gods word telling them that they had purpose, right here and right now.

That’s the One Thing.


This article was written by Rand Southard who together with his wife Colleen founded Charis Hills Camp 12 years ago. For more information on Charis Hills Camp go to

Looking back at Charis Hills Camp

August 21st, 2017 by Charis Hills Admin

by Rand Southard

After eleven summers here at Charis Hills Camp, Colleen and I have seen some amazing things happen between children with the autism diagnosis. When we began this camp, we were hopeful that the children who attend would find a place where they could be accepted as they are. Most of the children with autism who attend have a difficult time in social situations and in finding others who will not exclude them for their, (sometimes peculiar) interests or behaviors. When children are at school or church and don’t have the interests that many of their counterparts have, they feel that they are not wanted. Thus, many have isolated themselves further by drawing into the computer world where they are not judged and not criticized but rather are rewarded for the ability to concentrate and function in a world where social customs are not needed.

Colleen and I were determined to develop a program where these children, regardless of their uniqueness, would be accepted. We started by developing a training program for the counselors. The counselors needed to find a strong place in their “self” where they can stand and not be knocked down. We can all find that in our faith in Jesus Christ, so the first item on the list was to find that group of counselors who wanted to serve Christ by serving these children. Building that group into a family unit who would work tirelessly to give every opportunity to these children became goal one.

Goal two, was to give them the knowledge base to help promote self-confidence in this group of campers. We train our counselors to promote the positive and ignore the negative behaviors; they are about to hurt them self or another! Campers receive a lanyard upon arrival and the system calls for giving a bead to put on the lanyard whenever a behavior occurs that needs positive enforcement. Counselors tell the camper what behavior they want, and when the behavior is seen, it is rewarded with positive praise and a bead is given to remind the camper of what just happened. Campers end the week with a string of beads that many take home and hang up to cherish for long periods of time. The bead string tells them, “I am good” and “I have done well!”

I could not count the times when a camper says “I can’t live without my phone or ipad!”
Many do not believe they are capable of making friends. Because friendships are made with people of similar interests, it’s not long until the cabin conversations turn to those things they almost all have in common. I remember a short while ago when a new camper came running to his mother when he saw her at the awards program. He ran to her and said excitedly, “Mom, Mom, you won’t believe it, not only do they not make me stop talking about Star Wars… they know more than I do!” He was speaking of the other campers! He had found a friend with similar interests.

As campers return year after year, I see those friendships solidify. Campers arrange to come when their friends are here! They sit quietly at the campfire chapel each evening and learn about our Savior and I see them, two at a time, then four, then ten at a time, gather together, put arms around each other and pray. I see these socially awkward young people after weeks of camp accepting others who do things that initially might “set them off”. I see campers rewarding other campers, cheering for them, doing the chants only a Charis Hills Camper will know! I see counselors, worn from the day, sitting patiently with a camper on the porch talking quietly and trying to answer the hard questions of our faith. I see the joy in both when the light comes on, and an occasional counselor tear when it doesn’t.

These campers begin to be challenged to learn new things, to move away from the solitary life behind a computer and to look forward to a time fishing, kayaking, making a ceramic cross, studying the stars, or learning about animal care. They learn to admire the majesty of the horse, and feel the power of his feet as he trods beneath them. They learn the commands of “walk on” and are taught that this is what God does with us! Our job is to “walk on” under control and in trust of the One who put us here.

There is nothing “magic” about Charis Hills Camp. Our program is built on Jesus Christ and his message to all of us: That we all have a purpose and a plan and that none of us are ill equipped to fulfill that purpose, no matter our difficulties in life. We teach that God uses our trials to build us stronger, just like weight lifters have to tear down muscle in order to build it up.

In the quiet of the evening, as I watch the sun set from my porch and hear the laughter drifting over the lake from a bunch of sweaty kids and counselors playing some silly game, I feel like God has created a type of magic here! The magic comes from His design on this earth and on mankind, and that plan is to treat each other with fairness and dignity. When these young counselors realize that they have it within them to change a small part of the world, to really change it, for good and when these campers realize that they have purpose, that they have ability, then God has worked His own magic.

Calling Charis Hills Counselors

January 23rd, 2013 by Charis Hills Admin

by Rand Southard

It’s that time of year again to look for some fine young people who want to be summer camp counselors, to begin the process of putting a team together of people that will absolutely change the lives of a few campers. I can’t help but think about the wonderful impact that these young folks will have on the campers, but maybe even more so, the impact that the camp family will have on them.

When I say camp family I mean it. We all become a family, for a while, and some for a lifetime. I know those people who were there with me during the summers I was a counselor had a tremendous influence on me. Not only did working with the campers change my life, but the counselors I worked with shaped me.

I was not confident my first summer. I had always had the support of my family and small group of friends, but, I had not been tested on my own. I remember wondering if any one would like me? Would any one befriend me? Could I work with the kids? Would I have the endurance? Would I have the patience?

I look back now and see how I was rescued from those feelings of my own by those I was surrounded by. As I write, names from the past flood my memory. Counselors and campers alike who helped me in various ways to learn that I had some skill of my own, that people outside my home town would like and love me, that I could earn the respect of the campers.

I still see those faces, know those names, forty years later. Most of those I worked with became professionals who work with children in some capacity, some in other fields, some I remain in contact with, some fit in the ‘closest friends’ category.

After being around “camp life” for 40 years I’ve seen what camp does for so may counselors like me. They come to camp a little nervous, excited and more often than not, not knowing anyone – much like the campers. They leave confident, fulfilled and with a group of friends like they may never find in one place again!

I believe fully that the experience gained being a camp counselor is as valuable as four years of college. Almost all camps offer valuable experiences. This place called Charis Hills is special… but I’ll save that for another time. I will say that if you are considering a camp counselor position, be ready to be exhausted, worn completely out, and re-filled with the best emotions, experiences, and friends you may ever encounter.

The Blessings of Camp

January 21st, 2013 by Charis Hills Admin

By Colleen Southard

Being the youngest of four, I got to watch my siblings do lots of things before it was my turn. When my older brother went to Glen Rose Church Camp, I couldn’t hardly stand it. I tried to talk my parents into letting me go earlier than they planned. It didn’t work. I wasn’t really sure what I was missing out on, but I knew it was big.

When I was ten, I was invited to go with my cousin to her church camp. I had no idea it would lead to a life-changing event and life-long passion. I loved camp immediately. Swimming every day was great. I enjoyed the fun activities, surviving the first night of homesickness, and feeling like a confident big kid the next day.

Every evening, the whole camp gathered for singing and a worship service. The first couple of nights I did a lot of squirming on my bench. God was really convicting me of my sins. As I said earlier, I learned lots from my older brother; including how to stay out of trouble or at least, not to not get caught. On the last night of camp, when I heard the gospel message, it was like a light went on and I understood that not only was I a sinner, but that God had made a way for me through Christ. I accepted Christ that night. I was so excited to get home and tell my parents. Even though I was raised in a church, God chose to speak to me at camp. He chose for me to begin a relationship with Christ at an early age. He used camp to do it. I was blessed to spend many weeks at camp as time went on.

Seeing Christ alive in my counselors in my youth and seeing the counselors live out their faith at Charis Hills is what it’s all about. Whether it’s turning to the Word to find out what the Bible says about being anxious or homesick or stopping to pray with someone about a situation demonstrates their faith in action. We are passionate about teaching our campers about having a relationship with Christ. We want to show others that Jesus isn’t someone we only hear about on Sundays in a sanctuary, but He is with us minute by minute and is interested in every detail of our lives. Camp was such a gift to me. Oh, Praise Him from whom all blessings flow.

October Family Camp

November 5th, 2012 by Charis Hills Admin

There are a lot of neat things about Family Camp at Charis Hills. Parents come and spend special time with their children in the North Texas Hill Country. Kids meet other kids with similar backgrounds (either because they have special needs or because they, too, have a sibling with special needs). Families come together to pray and worship in nature and make life-long friends along the way. And parents come to learn and support each other through their journeys of raising special needs children.

This weekend, Charis Hills had the honor of having Bobbi Sheahan, former attorney, current author, and stay-at-home-mom, speak to parents about what she’s learned about adapting to life with a special needs child. Her latest book, co-written with psychologist Kathy DeOrnellas, Ph.D., is called “What I Wish I’d Known About Raising a Child with Autism: A Mom and a Psychologist Offer Heartfelt Guidance for the First Five Years.”

Bobbi’s talk covered many topics of interest to parents including the importance of routines, dealing with outsiders and skeptics and their judgments of your parenting, and seeking resources for support. Bobbi cites Dr. Temple Grandin for many of her recommendations for supports, including: having a supportive family, structure and routines, gathering information, and possibly obtaining medication, and accountability for your child. She also stressed that the special interests of a child on the spectrum may not necessarily be a bad thing and may lead to work later in life.

The sessions also stressed the importance for parents to take care of themselves through the process – and remembering that parents and other siblings have needs, too. One of the main recommendations that she suggested was about reaching out online through books, blogs, and websites. She stressed that Twitter is a great resource. She also suggested the importance of laughter through it all.

To close the sessions this weekend, Bobbi organized a round-table discussion for parents to talk about the specific challenges that they face with dealing with issues of bullying, getting their children to open-up, and in-turn, dealing with school systems. Many great suggestions were shared including the recommendation to learn to be a parent advocate through the special education process.

This weekend’s session with Bobbi Sheahan were informative and entertaining. For more information about the topics discussed, check out Bobbi’s book.

Go to:

Use the coupon code: BOBBI for 15% off and free shipping

Autism Conference, Keller Texas

February 9th, 2012 by Charis Hills Admin

3rd Annual 2012 “Teaching Does Make A Difference Autism Conference” Feb. 27, 28 & 29. Check it out.

Conference Opportunity!

September 6th, 2011 by Charis Hills Admin

Future Horizons Inc. is presenting an Autism/Asperger’s Conference in Dallas Oct. 6 & 7. Dr. Temple Grandin, Dr. Tony Attwood and Dr. Jed Baker will be the featured speakers.

Preparing Your Child for Summer Camp

May 13th, 2011 by Charis Hills Admin

Ahhhhh, summer camp! Fireflies, fishing, friends and fun are just around the corner for your favorite camper. There are several things that you can do to help prepare them for camp.

Talk to your child about camp. You will only know about your camper’s concerns if you talk about them. Talk about your experiences if you attended camp.

Talk about homesickness. For many children, sleep away camp is their first away from home experience other than staying with family members. Talk about how you handled it. Explain that homesickness is a normal experience and that the activities and making new friends will distract them from feeling sad or nervous. Let them know that their counselors will always be there for them to talk to. Tell your camper that they will be receiving mail from you and that you will be logging in to see pictures of the fun they are having. Have your child choose something from home like a picture or stuffed animal to take with them to camp. Show your camper the opening and closing dates of camp and mark them on the calendar. If there are any recent stressful events in your family, discuss them so they are not worried while they are away from camp.

If you child has any special needs such as reminders for help in specific areas, dietary needs, medical needs…etc. assure your child that you have spoken with the camp and those needs will be taken care. Remind them that they can always ask their counselor for help as well.

Pre-write some letters to leave in the camper Mail Box at Check-in. This will assure that he/she gets mail the first days at camp. Plan and encourage your camper to write home by sending paper, envelopes & stamps.

Get your camper involved! Involve your camper in selecting their activity preferences. Discuss the options and have your camper look at the list of activities and videos on our website to guide them in their selection.

Involve your child in any shopping that needs to be done and packing to get ready for camp. Let him make some choices.

Involve him in putting batteries in the flashlight, choosing a book he might like to read during rest time and help label clothing and belongings.

Talk about the things that they will learn and friends that they’ll make.

Always be positive, assure them that they are mature enough to handle being away from home and encourage them about the fun that they will experience!

Pray for your child. God has great plans for your camper, but He wants to hear from your heart!


You might also like: 5 Ways Parents Can Help Prevent Summer Camp Homesickness

Summer Camp Rainy Day Activities

March 3rd, 2011 by Charis Hills Admin

Often the weather just does not cooperate. We here at Charis Hills like to have a good number of rainy day activities on hand. We are always looking for ways to keep the kids entertained and teach them skills or help them grow emotionally. Typically kids will gravitate towards the television or video games when they are forced to stay inside (unfortunately they do it on sunny days too). Here are some useful resources for “unplugged” activities that you can do with your kids when stuck indoors.

Rainy Day Activities

Online Resources

PBS Kids: Zoom

This is a great place to start for hands on learning activities that you can do with your kids. We have used many of them as a springboard for other activities. Most of the supplies needed you will find in your kitchen pantry.

More Info

Disney Rainy Day Activites

Disney: Family Fun

Lots and lots of activities to choose from. This is a great resource for outdoor activities and games too. Many are user rated too. Most of the indoor activities and crafts are best suited for children under 12.

More Info

If you know of any other good resources or activities please leave a reply below.  Thanks!