“Are you here to play with us?” The joy behind Adam’s beaming eyes was palpable as he waved me toward his summer camp group. “Come on!” he called as their circle opened to welcome me inside. I was there to visit camp as “Dr. Kloo” from NIP to observe, support, learn & consult with staff about their inclusive practices for children with disabilities. But I couldn’t help but wish I was there as “9-year old Amanda” to play, laugh, sing, and create with these friends who naturally and immediately included me despite my disability.
Everyone was welcomed into that circle—adults, kids, similar, & different.
A Partnership in Action
Our 2-Year inclusion journey with the Thornton CO Adaptive and Inclusion Recreation (AIR) Program kicked off this summer with virtual staff inclusion trainings and resource development for their summer camp, dance, gymnastics, preschool, & aquatics programs.
We followed up with an on-site visit to see their extraordinary programming in action. We toured universally designed facilities, met with program leaders & staff, visited with program participants & families, explored activity materials & instructional resources.
During our exploration, we couldn't help but notice some of the great creativity and mindfulness that went in to many of their inclusive practices, such as the colorful visual schedules and detailed choice boards to support communication, routine and high engagement of all the children during gymnastics classes.
One of the more unique discoveries was that every classroom, camp area, play space, & activity setting has Calm Boxes. These were filled with sensory tools, fidgets, mindfulness tips, social stories, breathing & yoga exercises, plus more to help kids calm down and destress when needed. We couldn't help but think that every home and office in the world could use one of these!
And while we were officially only there to train staff and conduct an assessment of their alignment to the Standards for Inclusive Recreation Programs, we were enveloped by the staff and kids as part of the Camp family by the happy smiling faces everywhere we looked.
It was a great beginning to our partnership with the Thornton CO AIR Program as they embark on a new year of staff development, program development, and preparation for NIP Accreditation. We look forward to being a part of their journey.
If you would like to learn more about our partnerships, contact us at AmandaKloo@inclusionproject.org.