Summer is traditionally the time when wedding planners go into overdrive mode and parents look for summer camps for their rambunctious youngsters. Summer camps used to mean dusty cabins, trips to the lake, and marshmallow roasts. These days, summer camps are hiring therapeutic staff right along with canoeing instructors. Specialty summer camps to meet the needs of children with disabilities are popping up all over. You could send your child to a camp specifically for kids with autism, kids with arthritis, or kids who are hard of hearing. There are even camps for gluten-free kids with celiac disease. Speech and language therapy summer camps are also riding the wave of specialty camp popularity. The University of Iowa SPEAKS camp is a microcosm of this trend, showing steadily rising enrollments from its inception six years ago.
The University of Iowa SPEAKS Camp
SPEAKS began with just four to five kids who attended a week-long session in June, along with four follow-up sessions later in the summer. Now, it hosts 14 kids. Families from neighboring states are also beginning to attend. At the Wendell Johnson Speech and Hearing Clinic, the SPEAKS camp introduces children who stutter to other kids who face the same problems. They learn strategies to increase speech fluency. Just as importantly, the SPEAKS camp provides a supportive environment for kids who must often cope with the social stigma associated with stuttering.
Parents also benefit from the speech therapy camp. They have the opportunity to meet with other parents who are raising children with a speech disorder. The parents share their experiences and discuss techniques that worked and didn’t work for their children. As an added bonus, the program also affords graduate students at the university an opportunity to gain clinical experience as they work one-on-one with the kids.
The Junior Jabberee day camp in Ahwatukee, Arizona is in its infancy, but it is already becoming wildly popular in the autistic community. Created by a licensed speech-language pathologist (SLP), this day camp focuses on boosting social interactions and modeling proper speech patterns. Just like regular speech therapy sessions, the summer camp uses fun, interactive games to engage children. However, the camp goes a step further. The SLPs will often pair a child who struggles with certain areas (like social interactions) with a child who displays age-typical skills in those areas. The SLP then guides the conversation. Speech therapists at the camp emphasize the importance of sharing and working with other children as a team.
Finding a Speech Therapy Camp for Your Child
Enrolling your child in a speech therapy summer camp can help him to retain the skills that he learned during the school year, as well as learn new skills. Children at these camps are immersed in social interactions. They are also benefitted by being in a supportive environment, surrounded by other children who face similar struggles. If you decide to enroll your child in a special needs summer camp, network with other parents at your child’s school. Ask them if they can give you feedback on local camps. Talk to your child’s teachers and his speech-language pathologist about camp possibilities. A local university might also host specialty summer camps. And don’t forget to see if your insurance company might cover part or all of the cost of speech therapy camp.