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Time is the answer. The magnitude of communication and learning that can take place day in and day out enables these young people to make great strides – even leaps – in their understanding of the power of communication. They begin to realize that communication is fun, as well as very useful.
Intensity of instruction is the answer. Children attending get individualized instruction in how to use their augmentative communication systems. They learn more about how they can make the systems work for them. They learn new uses of vocabulary. What is more, they learn that they can interact with other children and adults – the people they communicate with every day.
In a short time, children gain social skills by learning to communicate with others, which in turn enhances their own self-esteem. Sometimes activities – such as the talent shows – are geared to help children use systems in a way that creates fun for every camper.
Talking with Technology Camp creates opportunities for young people who use augmentative communication systems. More than this, it sets a course that gives them a solid future, enriched by the participation of the siblings and professionals in this process.
Children must be at least 6 years of age (some children this young may not do well away from home for an extended period of time; please consider this before applying). We do not accept young adults over 21 years of age.
There are no other age requirements; however it is important that there are applicants in the same age group in order for each child to fully benefit from this experience. This may influence acceptance of some children.
As this program has grown, we find that it is now very important that all children attending be "speech generating" augmentative communication device users. This means that even though a child will most likely use other systems to communicate, the primary purpose of this camp is to develop their speech output system. All children must have a speech generating system available to them. In some cases a child may be waiting to receive funding for such a system or have some other circumstance that prevents him/her from having his/her own system. In such cases it will be necessary for the family to obtain the appropriate system.
Please keep in mind that one goal of this program is to enable children to develop communication using their devices and then to extend this learning beyond the camp experience. If a system is not going to be available following camp, this program may not be the best one for the child.
It is also important that the child's ability to access the system be established. It is increasingly difficult to use the TWT Camp as a time to evaluate access methods, though practice accessing is clearly a component of the program.
There are no requirements for functioning level. It is, however, critical that the child be able to participate in both individual and group interaction in order to fully benefit from TWT Camp. It is important that the child demonstrate strategies to control behavior in order to fully benefit from this program and not distract from other participants' potential benefit. Also keep in mind that there will be many new and unfamiliar people working with the child. It's important for the child to be comfortable with others in order to enhance the learning that will take place.
Over the years we have had children participate in this program with a wide variety of abilities. The only restriction that we place on participants relates to medical management. If a child has medical problems that require significant medical management, a camp program may not be the best idea. There is a full-time nurse at camp, however nursing duties primarily involve management of medication and other "typical" problems that occur at camp, like minor colds, ear infections, etc. Children with significant medical concerns are evaluated by our staff, as well as the Easterseals Colorado camp staff.
The Easterseals Colorado camp director has the final say in these cases and will determine if a "personal care attendant" is necessary for a child to attend. If a child is required to come with a personal care attendant, the attendant may participate at a reduced fee. The attendant may participate in training as space and camper care responsibilities permit. Their primary role is to attend to the child's personal needs and at the same time allow the child to be as independent as possible and develop a positive relationship with his camp counselor and TWT trainer.
Every year we have requested that children come with adults that have and/or will be involved with them after the camp program. The reason is so that the learning that takes place at camp can continue and new ideas and strategies can be implemented beyond this one week program. We find this particularly important for children who come from out of state. First, many children need to travel with an adult. Second, it is difficult for us to provide effective follow-up for children outside of 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 family member. Every effort will be made to pair children who do not have an accompanying adult with an adult who wishes to attend but is not coming with a specific child. In some cases this may be a graduate student in speech-language pathology. If this is not possible, some children will not be accepted into this program.
Because TWT Camp is an opportunity for children to participate, as typical children do, in age-appropriate experiences and activities, parents are not invited. We know that often the person most familiar with the child and their use of the AAC system is the parent, however we stand firm on this policy. We value parent participation and provide a brief overview of information covered during the week with parents on the last day of camp, prior to picking up their child.
It is ideal to have a therapist, teacher, para-professional, etc. accompany the child. We believe that these individuals may learn the most about better ways to implement AAC systems, and this program can be the most beneficial to them. We are very aware of how difficult it can be to find a teacher or therapist to spend a week away from home and family, however this is a unique and outstanding educational opportunity. Some families have offered to pay for this adult. Occasionally, school districts and other educational support funds are used, and some schools even determine camp as part of the extended school year. We also hope to have grant funding available to provide scholarships for adult participants.
There are no specific qualifications for the adults, except that they are familiar with the child by having worked with him/her, and that they have and will have some responsibility in the development of the child's AAC system after camp. The adults may be just beginners in the area of AAC, though they should have some knowledge of the child's system. Others may be fairly sophisticated in their understanding of AAC. Adults must be at camp one day before the campers, and remain until their camper has checked out, the last day of camp.
There will be on-going training for the adults the first day of camp and throughout the week. College credit is available for adult participants. In addition, we have experts in the field available to work with the adults (and the children) and address their educational needs on an individual basis.
An important component of the TWT Camp program is that of sibling participation. We are able to accept siblings ages 6-21. It is also important for the siblings that there be others at camp in the same age category. So, again, this may determine acceptance of a sibling into the program.
Siblings are not meant to be "care takers" of their brother or sister. Although they do participate in some of the same activities, they also have an opportunity to learn from each other and enjoy activities designed specifically for them (like an overnight camp out).
In most cases only one sibling per camper is accepted due to space limitations. We will however make exceptions pending space availability.
Campy! The children stay in individual cabins on single beds. Side rails are available upon request. The cabin assignments are made according to gender, age and sometimes staff availability as related to child needs. Siblings are assigned to the same cabins, again based on gender and age. That means that sometimes a camper and sibling will not be in the same cabin. Each cabin has Easterseals Colorado staff assigned to it whenever a child is in the cabin.
Adult participants are assigned to separate cabins, though they too are dormitory, bunk-bed style. Personal care attendants are assigned to the child's cabin if this is necessary (if genders match); otherwise they reside with the other adults.
Shared bathroom facilities are available in each cabin. Privacy is at a premium both for children and adults. Only showers are available. Beds and mattresses are provided though everyone brings their own sleeping bag or bed linens, pillows, towels, and personal items. Storage space is extremely limited.
Meals are served in the Main Lodge. Food is also classified as "campy." Liquids are stressed for children (and adults) to combat "altitude sickness" special meals are available upon prior arrangement, and food is typically "easy" to eat (e.g., lots of soft foods like noodles, soups, etc.). The camp chef is able to adapt to most diets.
Transportation to the camp is arranged by each participant. Do not make any travel arrangements that cannot be canceled prior to confirmed acceptance in the program. If accepted to the program you will be given a check-in and check-out time. It is important that you make arrangements that will accommodate these times. Late check-in and early check-out significantly impacts this program's benefit for your child and others.
For those individuals who will be traveling by air, your flight schedule will need to be coordinated with the check-in and check-out times. The camp is located just off I-70 (west), directly from the airport, about 1 1/2 hours driving time away. There is no shuttle bus service from the airport to camp.
In some cases, it may be necessary to make airline flight schedules that get you into Denver the night before the check-in date and time, and that may hold you over in Denver until the day after camp. You will be responsible for accommodations and other arrangements.
Application to the TWT Camp is a complicated process. There are many deadlines and forms that must be completed. You will receive several letters with lots of important information in them. It will be to your advantage to carefully read these letters and keep them in a convenient place for easy reference.
If you require more information or have questions about Talking With Technology Camp, please contact: Caroline Woeber, Team Lead of Augmentative Communication Camps. She can be reached by phone at 720-478-2353 or by email.