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Despite autism, Stephenson thrives in CCC-G.I. camp

Despite autism, Stephenson thrives in CCC-G.I. camp


This week, Gideon Stephenson has been able to create his own comic book adventure, thanks to a little bit of accommodation.

Stephenson, who will be a high school freshman this fall and is autistic, is one of the students participating in Central Community College-Grand Island’s Lego Comics: Design Your Own Adventure camp. He said he is able to draw and use the computers at CCC-Grand Island when he creates his comic as part of the camp.

“I am building these characters on the computer,” he said. “They are Lego characters on the computer.”

The reason he wanted to participate in the Lego Comics: Design Your Own Adventure camp, Stephenson said, was because he likes to draw and use computers. He also likes to make videos and tell stories via comics at home.

“I like to make videos and I am able to do that, whether it is one or two stories,” Stephenson said.

He added that at the CCC camp this week, he has been able to make a story and a commercial using a computer at CCC-Grand Island.

Stephenson’s mother, Faith, said her son has “powered through” the five-day camp and got finished Wednesday with his comic portion of the camp.

“However, right now, I think I didn’t get it done,” Gideon Stephenson said. “I am doing some adjustments to the comic I have already done.”

Judy Weston, community education coordinator at CCC-Grand Island, said the camps are geared at exposing students, including Stephenson, to future careers. She added a part of exploring potential careers is also knowing the expectations of them.

“A part of the camp is that Gideon needs to, if this is a career, know the expectations of a career,” she said. “Today it was, ‘Your boss is telling you that you need to add more to the project.’ The younger ones did not take kindly to that, but Gideon thought through it and added more.”

Weston said this is the third year Stephenson has participated in the camps at CCC-Grand Island. Faith Stephenson said her son has participated in the digital comics and Minecraft animators camps in the past. She added the camps have helped him with his creativity and communication skills.

“Gideon has to deal with things being different than the way he wants or some of those things he struggles with because of his autism,” Faith Stephenson said. “The camps have helped give him, with the small class size and the instructors being workable, the ability to learn how to deal with those situations a little bit better. It helps him socially at school and in the future as a career. He needs to learn it is not going to be totally his vision and to incorporate some other visions.”

In accommodating her son for the career camps at CCC-Grand Island, Faith Stephenson said, she spoke with Weston to see if he would be able to participate in the camps due to his autism. Weston said to give it a try.

“Our philosophy is to not let worries or being unsure keep you from trying things,” Faith Stephenson said. “Judy (Weston) made sure the class size did not get too big and she worked with the instructor the first year. She is a good asset to the instructors in helping them if they are struggling and teaching them if they are struggling with something. She is also good about bringing some concerns to me if they are having an issue and I can help address them.”

Gideon Stephenson said he enjoys participating in the career camps at CCC-Grand Island and that the other kids in the camps are nice to him.

Faith Stephenson said the camps have allowed her son to be exposed to different careers he can potentially pursue in the future. She added she hopes people realize the opportunities available to people with autism or other disabilities.

“I don’t want parents to be afraid of an autism diagnosis. There is community support and your kid can do anything,” she said. “I really want people to know how helpful this program is for all kids. My kids who do not have autism have done amazing and they love it. It has been a great place for Gideon as well.”

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