Thinking, planning and scheduling for the summer may seem like an odd thing to be doing in March. But organizing an activity, a vacation (if you are lucky), and down time is a very important component for children. Vacation allows us to have family time, activities help develop, old and new skills, and down time helps us regroup and remember. One activity to consider is a camp. Day camps or overnight camps can be very rewarding.
My experience with camp has been a front row view. During my graduate studies I worked as a speech and language clinician/counsellor at a summer camp organized and run by the University of Oregon. This camp was begun in 1964 and continues to provide summer support through a camp experience for 6- to 14-year old children today. To qualify as a camper, you had to be able to handle the outdoor terrain (lots of hiking, hills, and stairs to your cabin), like the outdoors (lots of critters and bugs) and have a diagnosed speech and language need. The benefits of attending this three-week camp were huge and, research showed, equivalent to a full year of speech and language support.
At Camp Meadowood Springs, I was expected to put my clinical skills into action and weave them into camp activities. A week before camp began, we were assigned our three students and told to plan their day. Given a pad of paper, scissors, a box of crayons, and a blanket, we were expected to meet with each student 2x a day. Following our sessions, the campers were then expected to practice their newly learned skill as they attended swimming, hiking, arts and crafts, and even during the task of writing letters home. Practice, practice, practice was the theme. This mix of work and fun instilled the need to make sure that every skill that is taught to a student, be able to be transferred to a variety of environments and to a variety of people.
Today, I am able to provide speech and language support in collaboration with the teachers at Oakwood School. The advantage of having both in one setting is priceless. Language is the basis to reading but to have all the skills you teach a child reinforced and practiced within the school setting or intensified during camp can make a huge difference in a child’s progress and retention.
Some people look forward to the summer because of vacation, I look forward to the summer to collaborate. Every summer is intense and fun, and such a wonderful experience. It is always made extra special when I receive an email from a parent later, letting me know that they will be returning next year because it is making a difference.
- Author: Kim Hiday