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Thursday, April 25, 2013

Social Learning at Overnight Camp

From Michelle Garcia Winer's SocialThinking.com

April 19, 2013

Michelle Garcia Winner: The idea of going off to summer camp can bring wide-eyed shouts of delight in some kids and immediate shudders of despair in others, especially in kids with social learning challenges. Here, we’ve listed some summer camp/summer programs that incorporate the Social Thinking framework, along with a brief list of questions parents can ask when exploring different camps for their child. Best of luck in finding the right fit for your child!

Camps and Summer Programs
(Incorporating Social Thinking vocabulary, concepts and strategies.)

Camp Sequoia - Pennsburg, PA
www.camp-sequoia.com (Programs for Boys Ages 8-17)

The mission of Camp Sequoia is to help campers have a great time while developing their social cognition (how to think in a social context and apply socially-related skills). Sequoia fills an unmet need in the overnight camp market for children and teenagers who do not need the level of support offered at special needs overnight camps, yet need more than a traditional overnight camp can offer. Through integrating the Social Thinking concepts and language into their program, they create full immersion into a fun, active social learning experience.

Social Thinking Meets Design Thinking - Boston, MA Area
www.socialthinkingboston.com Sessions for ages 5-7 (Sudbury), and Ages 11-16 (Martha's Vineyard) 

Through small group instruction with highly trained staff, this full-day summer program incorporates dynamic teaching that focuses on sharing ideas, collaborative decision making, initiation, emotional regulation, and problem solving. Participants work in small teams to plan and execute a creative engineering project and participate in traditional summer activities and field trips.

Camp Social Superheroes at Camp for All - Brenham, TX
www.parishschool.org (Ages 8-12)

Camp Social Superheroes is a six-day overnight camp experience that combines a full, fun summer camp experience with intensive therapy for social cognitive challenges. Campers attend a daily Social Thinking group and practice their skills during activities like swimming, eating meals together, “hanging out” in their cabins, canoeing, horseback riding, camp fire activities and more.

This is an incredible opportunity for kids to make friends and gain real life experience using age appropriate Social Thinking skills.

The Ely Center Summer Camp - Auburndale, MA
www.elycenter.com (Grades 5-12)

Through their full-day camp experiences, participants practice applying Social Thinking and other social communication skills, executive function and social-emotional strategies in a naturalistic context, along with supportive structured lessons and fun activities.

Daily outings include locations such as New England Aquarium, Swan Boats, Fenway Park Tour, and other local experiences.

Growing Social - Watsonville, CA
www.growingsocial.org (Ages 8-18)

Designed for children with social learning challenges, these half and full day summer programs are held on a small, developing organic farm that includes chickens, goats, and a handful of other small farm animals. Gardening, cooking, nutrition and other related group activities are used as vehicles to teach and practice Social Thinking and social learning, as well as executive functioning/organizational skills. Community “Hang Out” camps for teens. Groups organized by age and skill levels.

Camp Altitude - Madison, NJ and Atherton, CA
www.camp-altitude.com (Grades 3-5 and 6-12)

Camp Altitude offers two-week summer camp experiences in New Jersey and California for boys and girls with social cognitive challenges. Their sleep-away camps (in NJ & CA) are geared to children and teens who are entering grades 6-12, while their day camp program in California is designed for children entering 3rd – 5th grade. Camp Altitude offers a traditional camp experience where friendships are developed within an environment that helps campers build their social skills, independence, and self-confidence.

Social Skills Sports Camp - San Francisco, CA
www.socialskillsgroupwork.com (Sessions for Grades K-2, 2-4, 3-5, 6-8)

Focus is on teaching how to play common sports and games and how to participate (socially) in a manner that is fun for everyone involved. Games include Capture the Flag, 4 Square, Knock Out, kickball, dodge ball, tag, basketball, football, and soccer. Learn not just the rules, but the social expectations involved in playing games in a group or on a team. Three hour/day program.

Side-by-Side Social Thinking Camps - Washington, NJ
www.yjcc.org (Programs for Ages 7-12 and 13-21)

Side-by-Side camps are small group, supportive day programs that help campers improve their social thinking skills through activity-based, social learning experiences. Social facilitators teach about body language, social cues, perspective taking, and cooperative learning.

Superflex® Summer Camp - Oakland, CA
www.cwtherapy.com (Grades 1-3)

Through relating to the powers of a superhero named Superflex (Winner & Madrigal), this half-day camp focuses on building self-regulation and Social Thinking vocabulary and strategies that will help participants build “brain powers” to become more flexible thinkers.

Peer Projects Summer Program - Beverly, MA
www.peer-projects.com (Ages Pre-K through Middle School)

These half-day, 3 days/week summer programs are geared to children ages pre-K through middle school and focus on teaching Social Thinking, emotional regulation, sensory regulation and other skills needed for successful social interaction. Cooperative games and teamwork activities are combined with sensory/movement and relaxation strategies to provide opportunities for social practice, fine motor development, and expressive/receptive language development. Small groups are based on social and developmental needs and strengths.

Camp Compass - Burlington, VT
www.sterncenter.org (Ages 6-21)

Camp Compass is a one week, half day summer activity-based program designed to promote social learning. Campers participate in dynamic, hands-on, theme-based, experiences that focus on their strengths within an environment that supports their social potential. Participants are grouped by age and their social communication skill level. Morning and afternoon sessions available.

Selecting a Camp: Questions Parents Can Ask

  • Is the camp geared to instruction/learning or is it a traditional summer camp experience?
  • What is fun and unique about your camp?
  • What is the size of the camp/camp programs?
  • What is the counselor to camper ratio?
  • Give me 3 reasons kids enjoy being here?
  • Give me 3 reasons counselors enjoy being here?
Camp Counselors:
  • What are the qualifications of camp counselors?
  • How are counselors chosen?
  • How are counselors trained?
  • Do counselors use Social Thinking concepts, vocabulary, and strategies? If yes, how?
  • Do they incorporate any other social learning methods, like RDI, SCERTS, The Incredible 5-Point Scale, The Zones of Regulation, etc.?
Camp Life:
  • How are campers grouped?
  • Is there a choice among activities or do all campers follow one schedule throughout the day? Can campers choose to opt out of activities?
  • How much of the day is structured, how much is free time?
  • Are visual tools and schedules used?
Behavior & Discipline:
What is the camp’s discipline policy? For campers, for staff?
How are behavior problems handled?
How do staff prevent meltdowns? Handle a meltdown once it starts?
What is the difference between punishment and discipline?

Other & Health/Medical-Related:
  • Can special diets be accommodated?
  • How are sensory issues handled? Is there a quiet place campers can access if needed?
  • Does the camp have an emergency plan?
  • What’s your repeat rate (campers who return another year, staff who return year over year)?

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