Cool Communicators Camp participation continued to grow in the summer of 2010. There were 47 Cool Communicators who participated this summer at the 3 BC Lions Easter Seals camps in Squamish, Shawnigan (Vancouver Island) and Winfield. This is the largest number of Cool Communicators Campers we have ever had, with an increase of 6 campers over our record high last year. This increase exemplifies the growing recognition of the value of providing opportunities for these unique communicators to network. Additional campers who were non-verbal or who had poor speech intelligibility but did not have a device had opportunities to explore technology options at camp that would support their communication challenges.
Technology that campers brought to camp ranged from single message devices to complex communication devices and tablet computers with communication software. Access ranged from direct selection with a hand, headpointer or eye gaze to scanning with a switch. The majority of campers received their technology from SET-BC with a few having technology from Sunny Hill Health Centre for Children or from their school districts.
Cool Communicators were integrated with other campers with special needs in sharing camp experiences that included the giant swing, waterfront activities, trampoline, pool, climbing wall, low ropes course, campfires, arts and crafts and theme activities. For many, it was their first opportunity to sleep away from home without their parents. What a great opportunity to develop their independence skills!
In addition to the comprehensive training camp counselors undertook during their orientation in the spring, they learned about communication challenges and technology used to support it from the Speech Language Pathology Support Team Coordinator. They also had hands-on practice with a variety of speech generating devices.
Cool Communicators were supported by an entire speech and language support team. Members of the team were mostly school district speech language pathologists but there was an occupational therapist, a special education teacher, and even a director of special education. All the camps had the support of a UBC Speech Language Pathology practicum student. There was also a mentor-volunteer who was a skilled communication device user at Shawnigan. Having the support of these latter two groups was great and helps build capacity for the future support of these camps.
At camp, the SLPS teams were actively involved with camp programmers in developing communication activities for theme activities. They organized and facilitated communication stations at theme-based camp activities including Monk’s lunch (no talking except with devices), during games such as Twister, Charades, while using high tech or easy tech devices for non-device users, and in device exploration. The SLPS team promoted active involvement using devices whenever possible throughout the camp. They took many photos to create photo stories or visual scenes and videos of camp activities. The support team also taught a number of physically challenged campers to use switch-adapted cameras. It is hoped that these visual memories of camp will help campers share their camp experience with others and be kept as lifelong mementos of their great summer camp experience.
Do you know a cool communicator who might benefit from a camp like this? This could be an experience of a lifetime for them. We’re already counting the sleeps to next summer!