Apply to be a camper! 

(APEX staff applications are closed for 2024! If you have any questions please feel free to reach out via email at apex@uw.edu.)

Click Here for our Staff Flyer!

The UW Autism Center is dedicated to being the trusted and consistent presence the community has known since 2000. We will continue to offer the high-quality advanced peer experiences that APEX is known for, even though the summer 2024 APEX program may be a little smaller than previous years as we take time to adapt to program changes. We look forward to seeing your children grow and thrive as they take advantage of social opportunities, build and strengthen their social skills, and connect with our talented staff every summer. Camper registration for 2024 opens on Monday, March 11th, 2024.

About Apex

Mission

The mission of Apex Summer Camp is to provide an evidence-based, neurodiverse-affirming summer program designed specifically for children with ASD and other neurodevelopmental disabilities. We utilize a naturalistic camp environment to focus on building social skills, positive relationships, and self-esteem within the context of structured recreational and learning activities. We engage leading experts to provide clinical training, supervision, support, and consultation for our program. The UW Autism Center’s summer day camp program aims to provide a structured, data-based, and individualized program for campers. It also aims to train and engage emerging professionals in the field of evidence-based behavioral intervention.

The APEX Summer Camp Program stands against all forms of bias, injustice, and discrimination. We are committed to creating equitable, diverse, and inclusive spaces for all races, ethnicities, gender identities, sexual identities, religious practice, and dis/abilities. We are committed to providing neurodiverse affirming care for all children and families we provide services for in our community.

Philosophy

Our philosophy reflects naturalistic environments offer the best opportunities for learning and generalizing meaningful skills across multiple settings (home, school, social activities). Our program utilizes common, age-appropriate recreational activities including game play (board games, table top games, arts and crafts, sports activities and others) that provide opportunities for kids to engage with each other and build friendships. Additionally, the APEX program is highly structured to maximize learning opportunities and to provide consistency and predictability for our campers.

We introduce new skills through direct teaching and explicit rehearsal with practice throughout the day. Behavioral data are collected during all activities, providing data-based progress monitoring. We utilize positive reinforcement and genuine, warm relationship building to support prosocial behavior, accompanied by direct prompting and feedback, as appropriate. Parent partnerships are essential, assisting in the identification of target skills and facilitating growth across environments.

Program Design

The camp program is designed to build and practice social skills and self-esteem within the context of structured recreational and learning activities. Children participate in typical camp activities including board games, table top games, arts and crafts, sports activities and others. We introduce new skills through direct teaching, explicit rehearsal including modeling and role-playing, with practice and reinforcement throughout the day and across activities. Explicit social skills instruction will be provided using evidence-based programs to support reciprocal conversations and friendship skills. Targets of treatment include improvements in the quality of peer interactions, increases in self-efficacy and confidence, and enhanced self-regulation of emotions and behavior. The program offers 115 hours of treatment in 4 weeks, roughly the equivalent of a year and a half of clinic or school-based social skills training.

The program includes the implementation of a reward system in which children earn points for appropriate behavior, such as helping peers, staying on task, following rules, and appropriate social interaction (e.g. maintaining personal space, initiating social approaches, appropriate questions). Point accumulation entitles children to rewards on a daily and weekly basis. Data tracking proceeds continuously throughout camp, with individual progress monitoring occurring on a daily and weekly basis. Daily report cards are sent home to parents to provide feedback to the child and parent regarding daily and weekly performance. Expert clinical supervision occurs weekly, with individualized intervention programs implemented and modified accordingly.

Apex Staff

Alexa Matlack, PhD, NCSP, LP (she/her)
APEX Camp Director

Dr. Alexa is the Director of the APEX Summer Camp program. She was a part of the early years of APEX as a graduate student and returned following completing her studies as the Clinical Director, and now has transitioned to Camp Director. She has always loved working at summer camps and is passionate about supporting youth with building social skills and interpersonal relationships. Dr. Alexa is a licensed psychologist and Assistant Teaching Professor of School Psychology at the University of Washington. She is a school psychologist by training and has worked with neurodiverse youth and families for several years, both providing direct clinical services and supporting families navigating special education and school systems. Dr. Alexa is a certified Parent Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) practitioner and has extensive experience supporting parents with behavior management training and support through the Incredible Years program. She also supervises many clinical trainees in building their clinical and intervention skills toward providing culturally responsive and neurodiverse-affirming clinical practices for all youth and families. Outside of work, Dr. Matlack can be found reading a good book, spending time with her orange tabby cat, and enjoying time outside with friends and family.

Hayley McAvoy, MA (she/her)
APEX Program Coordinator

I am a 4th year school psychology PhD Candidate at the University of California, Riverside. I have spent three consecutive summers as a lead and head counselor at APEX; and co-facilitated APEX’s parent training during the school year. I have worked with neurodivergent children in a variety of settings (clinic, school, home). My research interest involves student-teacher relationship quality between with autistic students and educators, as well as training for teachers and paraprofessionals. Outside of that, I like to run, bike, swim, hike — and just about anything else that involves being outdoors!

Carolyn Campbell, BA (she/her)
APEX Program Coordinator

I am a 2nd year child clinical psychology PhD student at Ohio University. I have spent three consecutive summers as a counselor and lead counselor at APEX. My research interests are school-based interventions for children and adolescents with ADHD and factors that enhance teacher implementation of these interventions. I also have both a research and clinical interest in supporting LGBTQ+ students of all ages. During my free time, you can find me rock climbing, cooking new recipes, checking out pop punk shows, and watching the greatest football team in the entire world, the Buffalo Bills.

Rachel Sun, Ed.M., BCBA (she/her)
APEX Clinical Coordinator

I am a 5th year doctoral student in school psychology at the University of Washington. I had the amazing privilege to join APEX summer 2023 as a lead counselor. I have more than five years of experience providing culturally responsive behavioral and mental health support for neurodivergent children with diverse needs across settings. My research interest focuses on cultural adaptations of evidence-based practices and family training to serve families with children with autism from marginalized backgrounds. The free time side of me loves camping, hiking, and spending free time in the woods 🙂

Bella Li, Ed.M., NCSP
APEX Administrative Coordinator

I am a 4th year Ph.D. student in the School Psychology program at the University of Washington. I am also a Nationally Certified School Psychologist with a bilingual extension in Mandarin. Before I started my Ph.D. study, I had the privilege of working as a school psychologist for four years in Washington State. I supported APEX in 2019 and am so happy to be back! I love working with neurodiverse children and their families! I have been deeply moved by their incredible and resilient journey, which has sparked my curiosity and determination to become a skilled practitioner working closely with this population. My research interests are to understand multicultural competence and culturally responsive adaptations to therapy. I love walking my cute puppies and teaching them random tricks, playing tennis, snowboarding, and reading in my spare time. One fun fact about me is that I love growing vegetables but haven’t harvested much (still trying).

Apex FAQs

Who goes to Apex Summer Camp?

A broad spectrum of kids attend Apex Summer Camp. Our program is designed for children ages 8-13 with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and their peers and siblings, with or without a diagnosis. Children need proficient language skills (equivalent of 6 years of age) to fully participate in the program.

What is the camper to counselor ratio?

Kids are divided into groups of 8-10 campers. Each group has a dedicated team of 5-6 counselors, usually led by a master’s level therapist or advanced graduate student. Counselors are graduate and undergraduate students studying psychology, medicine, speech-language pathology, education, occupational therapy, etc. We typically have a staff to camper ratio of 2 to 1.

What is a typical day at Apex Summer Camp?

The day begins with a morning meeting reviewing the schedule and activities of the day. The camp day is split into four activity periods. The four daily activities will include: social skills lessons, art/creative activities, recreational time (sports and other physical activity), board games and table top games. Each activity period begins with a group discussion outlining camper expectations. Activities are separated by structured transitions. A lunch break followed by recess occur in the middle of the day. The day concludes with an end of day discussion reviewing the successes and challenges of the day.

Where is camp?

Our summer program is hosted at a local school in a North Seattle neighborhood, within 10-15 minutes north of the University of Washington Seattle Campus.

How do I apply?

Apply online by submitting an electronic application in early Spring.

What’s the application process?

After we receive an electronic application, we will contact the family to schedule a virtual or in-person screening.  We aim to notify families if their child has been accepted to the program within two weeks from the screening appointment.

What is the cost?

Camp tuition is $3960. This includes the camp fee and for professional staff services.

Is part of camp covered by insurance?

We do not expect to bill professional services to insurance. Insurance and Washington State rules require services to be provided directly by licensed professionals (as opposed to graduate or undergraduate counselors) in order to be reimbursable.

Are there scholarships available?

Scholarships for camp tuition are available from the UW Autism Center’s Family Scholarship Fund and FEAT of WA Ben’s Fund (for children that have an ASD diagnosis).

Apex Testimonials

“My grandson has been in training (hundreds of hours of therapy) for the Super Bowl his entire life. He finally had a chance to play in the big game. The opportunity to put his much practiced skills into play in a real life – real time setting was invaluable. Therapy sessions are not real life – skills do not become embedded until they are employed in a myriad of settings. That is what this camp provided for him – an opportunity to use and perfect his existing skills and the guidance to learn new ones.”

“We were really happy and relieved to find that such a great resource was available this summer. Knowing that our son would be in a structured, supportive and fun environment was important to us — we don’t feel comfortable sending him to just any summer camp so it was great knowing he was in a good place and also learning valuable skills. During the school year, he doesn’t get enough social skills coaching and no one ever takes the time to teach basic recreational activities, so we think this is a really important program. We’re looking forward to coming back next year!”

“Camp was outstanding — highly competent staff, really carefully thought out program geared towards success at and outside of camp, excellent parent education sessions. I loved the sports piece as a way to learn social skills, build confidence, work as a team, follow rules, and have fun. And the daily goals that the counselors identified and worked on with him were right on the mark. I can’t say enough good things about the camp – except that I wished it had been eight weeks in duration.”

“This was the best money ever spent for our family.”

“My son really responded to the structure.  He fell right into the program and was excited to go everyday, which is a big deal!”

“We have been looking for an appropriate summer camp for our son for many years. This was the first time we found one that we feel truly met his needs. Our son had a wonderful time and we look forward to him returning next year.”

“My children had a wonderful summer at camp.  They learned important skills and became more self aware of their actions.  They were also forced to participate.  In the past they would sit out and not learn how to play.  They were becoming more introverted and distracted.  By forcing them to play they became engaged and realized how much fun it was to be part of a group and have fun.  We learned a lot of skills that now will make us ready for school.  My son is often the target of bullies and I believe some of the skills he learned at camp will help him stay out of situations that could make him the target.  It was also wonderful having supervision that understood why the children acted the way they do.  Most camps and schools [don’t] have patience for kids with ASD and they feel like there is something wrong with them.  At camp they are allowed to be themselves and learn in a kind manner how to change behavior that others might see as distracting or odd.  Please continue this camp the kids with ASD need a place to go and be a kid and not worry about being judged. Thanks again for caring.”

“We have experienced rapid and visible progress. Five weeks at Apex equals 1 year of traditional therapy programming. The focus on real world scenarios allows the child to absorb and apply the content all in the same action; it is highly effective for our camper. This is sadly missing from traditional therapy models. Having diligently investigated and participated in numerous therapies over the past 5 years, I can say there isn’t anything out there that comes close to the Apex model. Strengthened through the Apex Booster program, we see our camper not only retain the new skill sets, but to broaden them throughout the school year. We saw a complete integration of proper “sequencing” come online this year. He started asking questions, “Do you remember?.” For the first time he began using classmates names when talking about the days camp activities – without prompting. He has started asking family “How was your day – your experience? These are brand new skills – they came from APEX.”

“This program has made a significant difference for my son. It has improved his confidence, sports skills, and abilities to socialize appropriately. I would (and do) highly recommend the program to other families affected by autism. So THANK YOU for making it possible to participate!”

“We had a wonderful experience at the camp – our child benefited greatly from socializing with other kids in an environment that mimicked “real life” activities that our kids would experience in school, camp, etc. We are blown away by the dedication of the staff to the program and our kids- we felt comforted knowing our child was in a kind, nurturing setting that encouraged success & positive reinforcement vs. frequent discipline & negative reinforcement. We are definitely looking forward to signing up next year!”

“Our son has autism, ADD, sensory issues, and anxiety. He’s also a super-star Lego builder and the most precious child you could ever imagine (!) but his developmental and health issues slow him down, and they make both learning and participating in sports much more difficult. For as long as I can remember, he has lacked confidence in sports. Before APEX, he never participated in PE at school, and he never joined in games at recess. He watched his brother go to after-school sports programs, but it was never an option for him because the counselor support in programs for typically-developing kids is inadequate, and the pace of instruction and play is too fast. Then came APEX. Our son has participated in APEX for three summers running and this is his second year in the booster program. It’s hard for me – his mother – to begin to explain the kind of emotion that floods me when I watch my child – who has never before had the experience of team – joining in a game, with confidence. I feel a deep sense of gratitude to the many people who keep the program going, who fund it, who plan it, and who have the patience, structure, depth of character, and sense of fun to play sports and teach my son and his peers. They are providing these children such important pieces of childhood that would otherwise be missed. In the summer program, he has learned sports skills and social/behavioral skills and had fun, but the best part is that he maintains those skills and relationships during the year in the booster program so that he doesn’t have to “start over” each summer, facilitating greater gains and enjoyment for him. He can tell you the rules verbatim, he participates with joy, and he not only participates in PE at school now, but he does so without his aide. This program has been life-changing!”

Donate to Apex!

Click here to donate to help support our program!

Please list “APEX Summer Camp” in the comments section, and let us know so we can track your donation in the UW system. For more information about sponsorship and ways to support our program, contact us at 206-221-2267.