Could Outer-Space Really Be A Missing Puzzle Piece For Autism?
Trying to engage a large group of autistic individuals in one activity can be very challenging (if not impossible). However, three years ago a man named Glenn Colin de Kavanagh-Norman arrived from the nearby hamlet of Cedarville and offered to introduce our campers to astronomy.
A lot of people would say that explaining space to youth with autism would be too abstract, but when Glenn first came to Fincayra, the campers stood still in amazement as they learned what his telescope can do and the knowledge he had of the stars. As Glenn started talking, our youth (who have a hard time sitting in a classroom at school), sat around our dining hall tables for 45 minutes - hanging on his every word!
Then - after he finished showing everyone pictures of the moon, and Live Images from The International Space Station (the I.S.S.), the real fun began! Glenn took all of our campers outside and with his computerized telescope, augmented by the amazing electronic “Mallincam,” projected breathtaking cosmic marvels - in sharp detail and full colour - onto our BIG, outdoor movie screen.
It was like having our very own, Hubble Space Telescope!
Our campers couldn't believe what they were seeing: giant close-ups of craters on the moon, the rings of Saturn, the moons of Jupiter, and galaxies “far, far away.” Every once in a while you would see our campers look up to the sky. They were starting to make a real connection.
It was an hour and a half into the activity and not one camper was walking away or showing disinterest.
Then Glenn ended our “Tour of the Universe” with something incredible.
He pointed low in the west and told our campers to watch for the sudden appearance of a distant point of light! They all stared intently before one of our sharp-eyed youngsters spotted the object, and we were quickly told we were watching the very same International Space Station we’d seen earlier online. As the I.S.S. approached, it started to move quickly across the sky. At this point, every one of our campers were waving as the brilliant light flew directly overhead, before disappearing over the eastern horizon.
We were told we’d just watched the I.S.S. (and its crew of four astronauts) cross all of North America – from the Pacific to the Atlantic – in just over 6 minutes!
It was an extraordinary experience and the whole camp was engaged, from our campers to our staff.
Glenn has continued to introduce our campers to the wonders of astronomy for the last three years. We are more than excited to have him back this summer when he’ll be introducing a new group of campers to the wonders of the Universe (invisible in light-polluted cities, but crystal-clear in the dark skies over Camp Fincayra}.
Who would've thought astronomy could be one of the missing puzzle pieces for autism?
"With the MallinCam Universe camera and just about any planetarium software driving your GoTo telescope, it is possible to acquire images from beside the telescope or more remotely from inside your home. Imagine that when February rolls around!" Glenn Norman
What are our plans to build on this activity?
Well, over this summer, we hope to build an observatory (with multiple telescopes) and a planetarium (for cloudy nights) on the property. This will allow us to continue sharing Glenn's vision with our campers for many years to come.