Special Education Summer Programs

Sewickley Y

Watson Institute special education experts believe you can build on the momentum achieved during the school year through the traditional summer vacation time. We know the value of structured special education and routine to our students with special needs and believe the summertime is no different to help them remain engaged. Watson offers a variety of special education summer programs to help your child with special needs maintain structure and routine throughout the summer months.


Extended School Year (ESY) Special Education Program

Extended School Year is designed for children with special needs who are eligible and qualify for ESY services. This program is offered at three of our special education schools.


Education Centers (Sewickley & South): Special education programming during ESY is consistent with our students with special needs’ IEP, consisting of adapted educational and therapeutic services for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, neurological impairments, developmental delays, and other related special needs.

Convenient Locations: Education Center Sewickley & Education Center South

Requirements: Students with special needs ages 5 to 21, enrolled in Watson Institute program and eligible for ESY services

Availability: ESY runs from June 20th through July17, 2018 Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

Contact Us: For more information, please contact Meagan Trimbur at 412-749-2805 or meagant@thewatsoninstitute.org


Friendship Academy: Special education programming during ESY is designed for children with emotional and behavioral challenges who qualify for ESY services and who would benefit from educational and therapeutic programming. Special education programming is in accordance with students with special needs’ IEPs and is structured to facilitate progress towards individualized academic and behavioral goals throughout the summer within a structured learning environment.

Convenient Location: Watson Institute Friendship Academy

Requirements: Students with special needs ages 5 to 21, enrolled in Watson Institute program and eligible for ESY services

Availability: ESY runs from June 27th  through July 26, 2018 Monday through Thursday from 9:00 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Contact Us: For more information, please contact Lauri Kragness at 412-365-3800 or lkragness@thewatsoninstitute-fa.org


Special Education Summer Camps for Children with Special Needs

Camp STAT (Summer Therapeutic Activities for Teens)

A special education summer camp designed for adolescents with high-functioning autism spectrum disorder for whom socialization is difficult.

  • Social Competency Development
  • Experienced and Collaborative Staff
  • Structured full day activities
  • Building Independence

Convenient Locations: Offered at the Education Center Sewickley 

Requirements: Students with high-functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder with verbal conversational language skills.

Availability: Camp STAT runs June 18 – July 13th; Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Contact Us: For more information, please contact Rebecca Thimons at 412-749-2894 or RebeccaT@thewatsoninstitute.org


Camp SCALE (Social & Community Activities for Life Experiences)

Camp SCALE offers a hands-on approach to developing vocational, social and functional community skills while promoting awareness and independence in the community. Students will have the opportunity to volunteer daily at a variety of partnering community businesses to practice basic job readiness and pre-vocational skills in real-life environments. Examples include but are not limited to local greenhouses, supermarkets, senior citizen centers, and Meals on Wheels associations.

These experiences are on a volunteer basis and are focused on assessment and exploration. Social activities will include relevant social skills training, age-appropriate recreation and leisure activities both indoors and outdoors. Life skills experiences will focus on functional daily living skills through community outings, menu and food preparation for snacks, grocery shopping, money management and self-care lessons.

  • Experienced and Collaborative Staff
  • Hands on approach to promote independence in the community
  • Special Education Transition Skill Development
    • Social Skills
    • Life Skills
    • Vocational Training
    • Community Service

Convenient Locations: Offered at Mt. Nebo Church in Sewickley and Westminster Presbyterian Church in Upper St. Clair

Eligibility: Students ages 14 to 21 with Autism Spectrum Disorder who are currently enrolled in Life Skills and Autism Support curriculums. Students MUST be able to handle a minimum 1:3 ratio and be independent with toileting and personal care needs. A referral and approval by the student’s home school district is required. Students are accepted based on availability of open slots and final approval by Watson’s Coordinator of Community Based Instruction Services. Review of appropriate ESY goals and on-site observation are also required for every referral.

Availability: SCALE runs June 25 through July 27 (no camp on July 4th), Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Contact Us: For more information, please contact Leslie Corey at 412-749-2881 or lesliec@thewatsoninstitute.org


Camp WISP (Watson Inclusive Summer Program)

An inclusive summer camp designed for children with autism spectrum disorder and related special needs to support the development of social skills through interactions with their typically developing peers.

  • Inclusive environment
  • Staffing tailored to student needs

Convenient Locations: Offered at multiple sites throughout Western Pennsylvania, providing children with special needs special education services within their own neighborhoods

Requirements: Children with autism spectrum disorder or related special needs ages 5 to 14, children are required to be independent with all personal health needs

Availability: WISP runs for 8 weeks from mid-June through early August, specific dates and times vary based on location, Monday through Friday. Check out the WISP Application for dates, locations and times for summer 2018.

Contact Us: For more information, please contact Rebecca Thimons at 412-749-2894 or RebeccaT@thewatsoninstitute.org


ACCLAIM (Autism College & Community Life Acclimation & Intervention Model)

ACCLAIM is specifically designed for college-bound teenagers diagnosed with Asperger’s Disorder or High-Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder. The program focuses on the development of skills necessary to succeed at college and includes therapeutic, learning, and social components. Appropriate candidates will have the academic abilities necessary for success in college but have significant limitations in their social and organizational skills.

This program was developed to give adolescents a preview of college life prior to enrollment. This program is intended to acclimate academically capable candidates to campus life, reducing the anxiety associated with this major life transition and helping them develop the social, behavioral, and organizational skills that are requisites for success in college.

  • Daily activities to develop social skills specific to college/community life
  • College life/skill tutorials from college faculty and staff
  • Access to college facilities including the bookstore, cafeterias, library, dormitories, etc.
  • Observance of actual college classes
  • Participant’s choice of a project to work on throughout the program

Convenient Locations: Offered at Chatham University in the Squirrel Hill area of Pittsburgh

Eligibility: Interested participants must open a case through OVR (Office of Vocational Rehabilitation) and meet eligibility requirements. Referrals and funding are supported through the PA Office of Vocational Rehabilitation.

Contact Us: For more information, please contact Rebecca Thimons at 412-749-2894 or RebeccaT@thewatsoninstitute.org


Special Education Careers – Summer Employment

Are you interested in a special education career working in a summer camp position? Check out our Careers page for current summer positions!