Special-Needs Adventure Camps, Classes and Services
Ascendigo offers rewarding summer camps with positive, autism-friendly supports so your child can succeed and have fun. Leading-edge teaching methods are centered around athletic growth and fostering independence. Campers get the opportunity to try activities such as rock climbing, wake-boarding and wake-surfing, whitewater rafting and horseback riding. Highly-trained staff make individualized lesson plans for young athletes, designed to create a unique experience. They help each participant achieve their goals. With proper support techniques, students on every range of the autism spectrum can feel the thrill of independent, soaring success at their own level.

About Ascendigo
Ascendigo Autism Services provides a much needed range of support for children and adults on the Autism spectrum. They employ 65 professionals in the Carbondale area. Plus the organization brings countless families to our community every summer to participate in an unparalleled adventure camp. Ascendigo offers recreational and social spectrum programs/services to help integrate people with autism into community life.

Ascendigo’s team is comprised of experienced professionals from the fields of applied behavior analysis, speech-language pathology, and recreational therapy. Learn about Ascendigo’s services in depth here.

Intervention services include the following:

  • Assessments
  • One-on-One Therapy
  • Consultation and family trainings
  • School consultations
  • Family resources

Learn more about one of Ascendigo’s activities, Equine Therapy:

Unspoken Wisdom:
Lessons from Horses
On Mind, Body & Spirit

Keep scrolling to read “Stories from Ascendigo Summer Camp” by Susan Linden. (MOUNTAIN PARENT, SUMMER 2018)



Susan Linden



Her autism makes it incredibly challenging to communicate with others. Her devoted mother, Julie Manning, goes to great ends to protect her while also allowing her to be a contributing member of her community. However, spending time outside the home is not easy. Both Olivia’s and Julie’s lives dramatically change for the better when Olivia attends Ascendigo’s Summer Adventures Camp each year with other kids on the wide-ranging spectrum of autism.  At camp, Olivia rides horses, rafts the waters of the Roaring Fork River, tubes behind a boat in Rifle Gap, and hikes mountain trails all with the individualized, positive support of an autism-specifically trained coach.

While Olivia is taking in mountain adventures, her mother gets a respite and peace of mind knowing that her daughter is doing something fun like ziplining or hiking. She receives a daily report about Olivia’s successes and challenges. “They totally tailor the day to the child,” Julie said.

The Ascendigo Adventures team develops an individualized plan for each camper that includes social, behavioral, and sports goals. According to Adventures Co-Director Joseph Breiling, coaches are trained to establish a rapport with the camper, understand what motivates them, and what sets them off. Coaches are able to find creative ways to get a camper out of his or her comfort level and into their stretch zone. “We practice incremental learning, develop small achievable goals and adapt those goals as we go,” Joseph explained. “For example, if kneeboarding is the ultimate goal, we may start with tubing, or even getting the camper to just touch the tube. We then make it a goal to get them in the tube then perhaps put the kneeboard on the tube. We are always adaptable and want to end in success.” Ascendigo coaches tune into what a meaningful reward is for each camper. It may be a simple high-five or scoring a seat in the front of the boat. According to Joseph, self-empowerment is huge in creating independence for those on the autism spectrum.


Independence is what 19-year-old Elliot Maxwell is experiencing. Elliot wears a baseball cap and a big smile. He first experienced Ascendigo Summer Adventures Camp in the summer of 2016 as a camper. It was so enjoyable that he volunteered to help with Ascendigo’s Adventures Club Saturday program for local kids and then became a Leader in Training for Summer Adventures Camp. His responsibilities range from spotting kids while horseback riding, working with the river team to help campers put on river gear to assisting participants with day-to-day activities.

What Elliot likes best about camp is all the friends he has made. He thinks he has probably made about 50 friends (campers and staff) and starts naming them . . . “Amy, Abby, Anna, Ben…” Elliot laughs as he recounts “camp week #4, 2016” when the campers and staff tossed a Go-Pro from one boat to another while floating the river, taking footage along the way. Having graduated from Basalt High School in 2017, Elliot attends the Roaring Fork School District’s “Ready for the World” program for 18 – 21-year-olds with disabilities where he learns social skills, employability skills, how to write a check, and more. The program is five days a week with hours that resemble a school day. Elliott considers this his work and proudly proclaims that he has a college ID as a part-time college student at Colorado Mountain College where he is pursuing an Associate of Arts Degree in Theatre Production — his passion. He is now (as of Summer 2018 when this article was originally published) taking a class in the subject during the spring semester and plans to take Math, History, and English in the fall when he will live in the dorms at the Spring Valley campus. Elliot’s ultimate goal is to work as a tour guide at Disneyland, where he has visited every spring break since 2002. Elliot moves about the valley to get to his classes via RFTA buses and the CMC shuttle. Conlan McGough, Ascendigo’s Adventures Manager, knows Elliot well and is impressed by Elliot’s independence. Conlan remembers that just a few years ago, Elliot couldn’t manage to take the bus. “I changed myself since the time I was a camper,” Elliot said.

The healing nature of being outdoors in the Colorado Rocky Mountains having fun, the positive encouragement of autism-specifically trained coaches, and the self-empowerment felt from accomplishing something outside of one’s comfort zone all work together to create success story after success story. Ascendigo’s Summer Adventures Camp really does change lives.