Inclusive Summer Camp Pilot Project: Building Bridges for Understanding and Inclusion

Author-Avatar Kim Elliott

1/17/2020 7:00 PM

Many of the campers at SUN camp had never met children with CCN or children with significant physical challenges. Alternative communication methods were new to many of them. We began the week during the Monday Morning Meeting by explaining the different ways we all can communicate. The campers were all very interested and offered their thoughts and experiences. However, since the concepts were relatively new and this was the first day meeting the campers with CCN, if we had left interactions to simply develop ‘naturally’, it was quite likely that the campers with CCN would have remained on the edges of the activities. Most people who are unfamiliar with specific kinds of disability, can feel intimidated by wheelchairs, communication devices/tools, and are afraid they will do or say ‘the wrong thing’.

Additionally, since many of our campers with CCN also rely on a Personal Support Worker (PSW), the adult can unintentionally become a barrier instead of a bridge to peer interaction. Starting from the first day at camp, we were very purposeful about positioning children with CCN in the group and trained the PSWs (and Grad SLP students) to intentionally invite campers to come learn about the Assistive Technology tools and showed them how they could interact with the campers with CCN.

Some strategies might seem obvious, but it is amazing how the smallest details can make the difference between children with CCN simply being present and actually being integrated in to the group.

The following are some examples of intentional, small changes that can encourage integration and inclusion:
1. Intentional Seating: peers seated next to peers with adults behind, not between (see Picture 1)
2. Intentional Spacing: not grouping all the children with CCN together – this is especially important with wheelchairs, which can be a physical and psychological barrier (see Picture 2)
3. Bridging Communication with Technology:  teaching the technology to all campers who were interested. By actively inviting campers to look at and learn about the technology, it increased comfort levels around disability and demystified assistive technology. Once the assistive technology (and the accompanying disabilities) were demystified, campers began organically forging friendships and becoming helpful partners when that was appropriate. (see Pictures 3 – 10)

Picture Explanations:
3 -4; teaching children how to program jokes on a SBS
5 -6; introducing and letting them try a camper’s eye gaze device;
7 – 9; campers beginning to take initiative programming SBS on their own with new friends with CCN
10; campers who were initially reticent to try assistive technology, eagerly & enthusiastically getting involved!
11 – 14; new friends made!

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