RV Hosts Social Skills Camp
RehabVisions in Dickinson, North Dakota recently held a social skills camp for selected children with disabilities, who are currently attending or have had therapy at the outpatient clinic. Most of the campers who attended were on the Autism spectrum, but there were a few with other disabilities affecting their social skills.
Children with these diagnoses have trouble in a variety of areas including communication, behavior, gastro-intestinal problems, sensory integration, motor difficulty and social skills. These kids would have a difficult time functioning in a typical summer camp setting because of these problems. They are often left out or made fun of because they don’t understand and cannot apply skills such as making eye contact, taking turns in conversation, interpreting humor and figures of speech, and adapting to changes in routine that are unplanned. They often need visual cues, models from others, verbal cues and frequent repetition in order to become proficient at targeted skills.
The focus of the camp was to provide an opportunity for these children to interact with each other and build social relationships while receiving support from one-on-one staff. The camp was held for three days in June at a local elementary school. There were 10 campers ranging from 4 to 10 years old and 10 high school student helpers who were paired with a different camper each day. Camp began at 1:15 p.m. in the sensory room, transitioned to gross motor activities, fine motor activities, speech/language activities, and then back to the sensory room before camp ended at 4:45 p.m.
The theme for the camp this year was gardening, so all activities completed dealt with gardening fun. Social skills were targeted during activities that focused on other areas of difficulty such as gross and fine motor skills, sensory integration and group activities where interaction is necessary. For example, campers used a variety of skills as they took turns scooping dirt from a bag to a large flowerpot. Once they filled pots full of dirt, they fulfilled their sensory needs by digging holes with their hands to plant their seeds. After their seeds were planted, they used gross motor skills to lift a water pitcher and water their plants.
This year’s camp was a very rewarding experience for not only the campers, but also all of the individuals who helped plan and carry out the camp. It is truly amazing the impact that three short days of social skills facilitation can have on these children. Their connection with each other and their therapists outside of camp have become stronger, which I believe will benefit our relationship going forward.