CAMP Strategy for Inclusion this Summer
by Dr Amanda Kloo, NIP Director of Inclusive Recreation
One of the most powerful life lessons I learned was taught to me 24 years ago by Farrah, a bright & brilliant 14 year old girl in a poem she wrote in my creative writing class at camp that summer.
Is only change,
Until it happens,
Then it's not."
The beauty & the truth of those 10 words singularly spoken through her speech device struck me to the core. They still do. Especially now in light of all the changes we've faced across the last year.
The CDC recently updated its Guidance for Operating Summer Camps outlining procedures & practices for holding safe, successful camps this year. When first reading the updates, admittedly, I felt a little apprehensive about how camps would need to change and how children's experience would be impacted-- especially campers with disabilities. But then Farrah's words echoed in my heart and my apprehension turned to excitement-- specifically for campers with disabilities.
Why? Because the guidelines prompt intentional planning, strong collaboration, new opportunities & innovative adaptations. Each a chance to plan with the needs of children with disabilities from the beginning- because everything is a blank page and everyone is at step one.
With that thought in mind, we came up with a C.A.M.P. Strategy to use as a supplement to the CDC guidance - an acronym to help keep the needs of children with disabilities at the forefront of these new directions. More details on each strategy component can be found in this downloadable pdf.
Frequent communication with families is more important than ever. Vary modes of communication to include print materials, digital materials, text alerts, apps, newsletters, video, and social media.
Before designing or developing new procedures, resources, and activities, adapt the ones you have. They may already align with Summer 2021 guidelines or require only a few adjustments. Inclusive camps adapt, innovate, modify, and embrace change, all the time—do what you do best!
This summer is a special opportunity to embrace an inclusion mindset. The foundation of every successful inclusive recreation program rests on a belief that inclusion is important, prioritizing every individual's health and well-being, and promoting a system-wide attitude that empowers success for every participant. Be excited to be there and commit to making this summer magical!
P POSITIVE BEHAVIOR SUPPORT
Remember that behavior is communication. Children may exhibit intense or escalated behaviors at camp this summer to communicate they are having difficulty coping with the ways the pandemic has impacted and changed their social life, school experience, or home environment. Plan, Practice and Reinforce. Most importantly, create a community of belonging where children are valued and belong.
Each component of the strategy aligns with key points of the CDC guidance to highlight important considerations for camp leadership to keep in mind when serving our kids & their families this summer. It equips us with the tools we need to embrace Farrah's theory of change to make inclusion happen.
Please note: The strategies listed here highlight only a few best practices to create safe and meaningful inclusive experiences for camps reopening this summer in alignment with the CDC’s Guidance for Operating Youth and Summer Camps During COVID-19 . These lists are not exhaustive or exclusive. Be sure to follow all operating guidelines for your state.