Talking with Technology Camp Marks 25th Anniversary

On Aug. 5, the 25th anniversary of the Talking with Technology Camp (TWT) was celebrated at a reception held at Children’s Hospital Colorado. In attendance were participants of the most recent camp which was held July 24-29.

Talking with Technology is not your average weeklong sleep-away camp. For the past quarter-century, augmentative communication device users from around the world have gathered in Empire, Colo. every summer. Held by Children’s Hospital Colorado and Colorado Easter Seals Society, the camp is a hands-on opportunity for these 6-21 year olds to get the most out of their devices.

An alternative to verbal communication

Augmentative communication is a form of communicating that “augments” or supplements an individual’s speech. Physicist Stephen Hawking, who has ALS, is one of the most recognized public figures who uses augmentative communication.

“For some children their Speech Generating Device supplements their verbal speech, for others it is an alternative because they are unable to communicate verbally,” said Brandi-Lynn Greig, team lead for augmentative camps at Children’s Colorado.

Children with cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury, autism, Down syndrome, apraxia of speech, motor neuron disease and others who use speech-generating devices may attend the camp.

“At camp, attendees learn how to better use their communication devices. They learn that they can communicate,” Greig said. “They learn that communication can be fun. They learn that other kids use communication devices too. For many of the kids, they have never been away from their parents or immediate family before. TWT gives them a chance to be kids, have fun at camp, make new friends and learn to better communicate.”

A unique component of the program is participation by students, speech language professionals, special education teachers, occupational therapists and other professionals, called “trainers” at the camp.

“The trainers come to camp and are provided with professional development, training specific to teaching and supporting individual’s who use Speech-Generating Devices for their expressive communication needs, and mentoring from experienced Speech-Language Pathologists who specialize in Augmentative Communication,” Greig said. “The goal is that we provide the trainers with the skills they will need to support the kids with complex communication needs throughout the year.”

Siblings are also invited to attend the camp, allowing them to interact with other siblings just like them. They are provided with opportunities to work with their brother or sister to better learn about their communication needs. Additionally, they get to have fun with the other siblings, away from therapy appointments and waiting rooms.

Community support keeps the camp running

The camp has been supported by donations throughout the years. Scottish Rite Foundation of Colorado, one of the single largest donors to Children’s Colorado, provides significant financial support for Talking with Technology Camp. A generous donation from the Rollie R. Kelley Family Foundation helps support the trainer, sibling and personal care attendant component of the program.

“We are very fortunate to welcome a new donor this year, Savannah’s Race Inc., who sponsored a very deserving young camper,” said Deborah Hayes, Kelley Family/Schlessman Family Scottish Rite Masons Chair in Childhood Language Disorders. “The generosity of these donors has touched the lives of not only the campers, but also their families and our staff.”

According to Greig, there is only one other camp in the world that provides the same opportunities as Talking with Technology.

“Talking with Technology is a highly specialized and unique camp which attracts children and families from around the world,” Greig said. “We are able to offer a lifetime experience that provides intensive therapy services in addition to a fun camp environment.”