1. How qualified are your staff? Our management team includes owners Linda Tatsapaugh, Doug Smathers and Robiyn Mims. Together, they have been involved with ADHD, autism and Aspergers camps for decades. This is an owner-operated camp, so we have a special interest and passion for running a professional camp.
Our camp staff members are college students or recent graduates who are studying a related field, such as education, outdoor leadership or psychology, and are seeking hands-on experience. Most have had experience working with young people, and all have been chosen because of their good judgment, compassion and insight into our population – children with autism and Aspergers.
2. What is your success rate? We measure success in several ways, including: goal progress, charted daily; completion of the session; positive responses on our post-camp surveys; and number of returning campers each summer. Many of our campers return year after year because the experience is so positive. Your child’s success is dependent on many factors, the most important being the level at which you and your family choose to participate throughout the process and your child’s willingness to make positive changes.
3. May I speak with another parent who sent their child to your program? Of course! We appreciate that you want to find the right program for your child. We are happy to provide you with a list of references. Just contact us by calling us at 828-697-6313. Or read what some of our campers, staff and parents have said here.
4. What is a typical day like at Talisman? That’s a challenging question to answer, because every day is different for each program. We work hard to find activities that our specific camper groups enjoy. They start their day with morning routine, chores and goal-setting. After breakfast, they head out to the day’s activities, which are different every day. Then, it’s back for down time and dinner.
Group discussions occur throughout the day to plan for the next activity, to talk about what we learned in the last activity, to resolve an issue and to meet the needs of our campers. Evenings are time to wind down and prepare for bed. Cabin groups are organized by age, which allows us to practice age-appropriate peer interactions.
5. What should we bring? We will send you a complete packing list with your confirmation packet. Some campers will need a backpack, sleeping bag, hiking boots and long johns. Forbidden items include electronics, food and money.
6. Do you accept students who are on medications? Yes, due to our nature as an ADHD, autism and Aspergers camp, the majority of our campers are taking some types of medications. We have a full-time nurse on staff who oversees all medication needs.
All staff members who are over the age of 21 are trained in medication administration. We use a med-packing company to allow easy administration. We strongly discourage parents from altering their campers’ meds while at camp (no med vacations!), or in the weeks right before camp.
7. What is your approach to food? (My child is a picky eater) We do not use food as a reward or a punishment. We provide wholesome food that is generally familiar to kids (for example, hamburgers, hotdogs, peanut butter & jelly sandwiches, cereal and eggs).
We can meet many special dietary needs, including allergies, GFCF diets and vegetarians and vegans. There is an extra charge to cover the additional ingredient and preparation costs. Some meal alternatives may cover several needs (e.g., a child who is gluten-free may have a dish that is also dairy-free and soy-free; vegetarians may be served vegan dishes).
In an effort to promote healthy eating habits, access to junk food is highly limited, and we do not accept any care packages with food. We also encourage our students to try new foods, by asking them to accept no-thank-you helpings on their plate and consider trying them. We do have limited meal alternatives for extremely picky eaters and will not let them go hungry. Families comment every year about the new foods their children have tried and now love.
8. How physically fit does my child need to be? To participate in our program, your child must be able to walk across campus while carrying a 20-lb pack. All of our programs are designed to bring unskilled campers slowly into shape in their activities. We do a lot of walking every day in all programs, eat a healthy diet and drink a lot of water, so our campers increase physical fitness while they are with us.
9. How do you discipline the children? We address issues when they happen and usually address them as a group. We stop what we’re doing and circle up to identify the problem, have the camper take responsibility, come up with some better alternatives and decide whether there is a natural consequence. Time-outs are used to allow people to calm down and prepare to come to group. Sensitive issues might be dealt with one-on-one with a staff person. Yelling, punishment and physical discipline are never allowed.
10. How will you communicate with me? We will call you once a week with an update – though you may call or e-mail us more frequently if you have questions or concerns. At the end of the session, we will send you a written summary of your child’s Talisman experience.
We discourage visits (except between sessions) and generally do not allow kids to make phone calls home, as this disrupts the group process. We do make an exception to this policy for family birthdays.
11. What happens between sessions if my child is staying? You must either pick up your child for the weekend or enroll at additional cost in a special stay-over program, which will be based on-campus.
12. What are your safety practices? We consider safety our number one priority. A full list of our comprehensive safety practices can be found here. Talisman Programs have been in operation more than 30 years and our camp owners, have been operating Talisman for many years. In addition, Talisman Programs is American Camp Association accredited, which includes a rigorous review and compliance process covering many safety policies.
13. What happens if there is an emergency? Your child’s safety is our number one priority, and we will do everything it takes to keep our students out of harm’s way. We have procedures in place to handle various situations, and our staff are trained in implementing them.
14. Where do campers come from? Roughly 50 percent of our campers come from the East Coast, 40 percent from elsewhere in the United States, and the last 10 percent come from outside the United States, including Canada, Mexico, South American, Australia and Asia. This provides a very diverse atmosphere for all of our campers.
15. Do you accept Medicare, Medicaid or similar funding resources? We are a private-pay organization, but there are many outside options available to help with funding. Feel free to contact us for information on these funding options.
16. Do you offer day camp options? Talisman is a traditional residential summer camp. This means that campers stay at camp for the duration of the session.
17. Where are you located? We are located about 40 minutes south of Asheville, North Carolina, right on the North Carolina/ South Carolina border. We are in the shadows of the Blue Ridge Mountains and enjoy Western North Carolina’s beautiful summers, with average day temperatures typically in the 80s and evening temperatures in the upper 60s.
Click here for more detailed directions to campus!
18. Which airport should we fly into? We are centrally located between Asheville Airport (AVL) and Greenville (S.C.) Airport (GSP), both of which are roughly 30 minutes from camp. We offer pickups for campers flying into both AVL and GSP. Charlotte airport is about two hours from camp, as well, but there is no pick-up option for Charlotte.
19. How are campers separated into groups? Talisman carefully and meticulously assigns campers to their groups based on many different criteria. We place campers in groups based on their age, diagnosis, personal characteristics and developmental abilities.
20. Do female campers sleep in the same cabin as males? Talisman is a coed summer camp, but female and male campers sleep in separate cabins at night. Female campers sleep in an all-female cabin with female counselors.