Talking With Technology Camp
There's a camp in Colorado that
offers more than fishing,
horseback riding and telling
stories around campfires. It's a
summer camp where a new
world of communication opens
for young people who use
augmentative and alternative
communication systems. It's
called Talking with Technology
Talking With Technology (TWT) Camp is a weeklong program developed by Children's Hospital Colorado for young people ages 6 to 21 who use augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) systems. Children's Hospital Colorado contracts with the Colorado Easter Seal Society for this week to be held each summer at its camp facility, Rocky Mountain Village, in Empire, Colorado.
A priority for acceptance to the TWT Camp is given to children who come with an adult who is working with the child and his/her system (e.g., speech therapist, teacher, aide, etc.), but is not a parent. Acceptance to camp is based on several factors including, but not limited to: trainer attending with the child, number of years attended consecutively, timely completion of ALL paperwork, and new device or access method since last camp attendance.
Both the child and the adult are involved in a week of training and implementation of the AAC system.
Each year the Talking with Technology Camp changes and improves. Its goals are to provide intensive intervention, within the context of a motivating and meaningful environment, for children using augmentative communication devices, and to enhance the development of communication partners and those facilitating AAC use.
A Unique Program for Campers, Siblings and Professionals
A unique aspect of TWT Camp is that the camper - who is the augmentative communication system user - usually attends with a professional trainer who knows the child. Brothers and sisters are also welcome to take part in the program. That's what makes this one week such an intensive learning experience for everyone. Because this camp gives children the opportunity to develop increased independence, parents do not attend. Children's personal care needs are managed by trained camp staff.
Young people using an augmentative communication system get individual and group instruction. They learn new vocabulary, new strategies for implementing that vocabulary and new ideas about what they can say. Lifelong friendships grow with their cabin mates and camp counselors. Activities include:
- Horseback riding
- Talent shows
- Singing around the campfire
- Arts and crafts
Brothers and sisters of children who use augmentative communication systems attend the camp to learn how to better understand and interact with their siblings.
In addition, they get to participate in all the traditional camp activities, too. Many of these are designed just for their group, giving them an opportunity to meet other young people who have a brother or sister who uses an augmentative communication system. Some activities are designed to help siblings learn more about the use and operation of the systems. In this way, they become better communication partners for their brothers or sisters.
Professionals, such as speech language pathologists or teachers, attend the camp to share in the experience of how communication impacts the entire life environment of the children with whom they work, and learn ways to continue the growth and development beyond the camp experience. These trainers get intensive learning opportunities. They get a closer look at the communication systems and begin to implement ideas for better communication on a daily basis.
An overnight camp experience also allows these professionals to see the actions of the children on a 24-hour basis. Consequently, they appreciate complex communication needs of the children, whom they traditionally have seen for just short periods of time.
Training for the professionals begins as soon as they arrive at camp, and continues during the week, providing them with hands-on experience, and guidance from experts in the field. Graduate level college credit is also available.
Personal Care Attendants (PCA)
Although the personal care needs of the children are managed by the trained and experienced Easter Seal Camp Counselors, some children have medical needs that require their own personal care attendant.The primary function of the PCA is to work with the camper's counselor to provide the unique personal care needs necessary. The need for a PCA is determined by Rocky Mountain Village. Generally, PCAs are required for children who have a night nurse.
Camper Funding: For many years, the Scottish Rite Foundation of Colorado (SRF) has generously supported Talking with Technology (TWT) campers and their families by offering scholarships for Colorado residents. An application for SRF scholarship assistance is required; amount of scholarship is determined based on family income. In most cases, families are expected to pay a portion of their child's TWT fees.
- SRF scholarship funding does not pay for the camp application fee
- Each Colorado camper must submit a financial application to be considered for funding assistance
- Insurance/Medicaid will not be billed for any services provided at TWT camp
- Families are free to ask outside agencies and organizations, including their local school district, to sponsor their camper
Sibling, Trainers and Personal Care Attendant Funding:
Funding support for siblings, trainers and personal care attendants (PCAs) may be available. Upon acceptance of campers' applications, families will be notified if additional support is available to defray the costs of siblings, trainers and PCAs.
All thank you notes and correspondence to the Scottish Rite Foundation of Colorado (SRF) can be sent in care of:
Children's Hospital Colorado
13123 E. 16th Avenue, B-030
Attn: Scottish Rite Program Assistant
Aurora, CO 80045