Mackenzie colouring with a pencil

To the outside world, Mackenzie (‘Mac’ to friends and family) often appears completely typical. However, she can struggle to develop social connections, make friends, and find her place in the world. Mac, 15, has high functioning autism and anxiety, which impact her ability to perform and participate in certain situations.

Mac loves coming camp at Zajac Ranch because, “There is nothing expected of me; I can do as I please.” She continues, “I am able to be me, with no pressure to keep up with all the social norms. I am free for a week, with no critical judgement.”

Heather, Mackenzie’s mom, shares, “Mac’s favourite memories of Zajac Ranch might be somewhat unique. One thing she really enjoys is not being forced into participating in all camp activities. If she chooses not to swim, or play a game, the counsellors are terrific at respecting choices that make her more comfortable and keep her anxiety low. This allows her to relax and enjoy herself in ways that work for her.”

Heather adds, “I think she also enjoys that there is no pressure to fit into the more ‘typical teenage girl scene’ with phones, posturing, gossiping, parties, etc. Feeling the acceptance of her true self allows Mac to further embrace her own personality without trying to live up to anyone else’s expectations.”

Mackenzie is interested in pursuing a career in a special needs field, and appreciates that at camp she gets to connect, observe, and chat with the camp counsellors and staff about their methods and job paths.

Heather says, “We are so lucky to have the opportunity for our children to attend Zajac Ranch and spread their wings. For our special campers with unique medical, social or behavioural needs, I think this is even more important. I believe the longer term effects of this are increased self-esteem and confidence, resulting in a happier and more settled child.”

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