SLP Corner: A Labor of Love – A Special Literacy Camp
by Tina Moreno, CCC-SLP
Like their friends, children who use AAC to communicate have so much to share. They have the same desire to learn to read and write as the peers sitting beside them in their classrooms. However, teachers often find it particularly challenging to teach children who must access written language differently.
This was my experience as a mom of my own handsome AAC communicator. When Mateo was in first grade, his enthusiastic yet visibly frustrated young teacher confessed to me, “I have no idea how to teach a nonverbal child to read.” Two months later, I returned to her classroom armed with resources from my first Closing The Gap conference. Since then, I went from graphic designer to school-based speech-language pathologist on a mission to give all of my students a voice of their own and access to books and pens and pencils—in whatever form they might take.
Other the years, I’ve followed the research of literacy gurus like Drs. Karen Erickson and David Koppenhaver. When I finally met them at Camp Courage in Minneapolis when Mateo was old enough to attend their weeklong literacy camp, it was like meeting a couple of movie stars! It was incredible for Mateo to attend a camp on his own. Each day, he participated in reading assessments and interventions geared precisely toward his reading level. At the same time, he took advantage of all the typical camp experiences such as swimming, boating, hayrides and campfires. For two consecutive years, we returned from that camp with an evaluation that described Mateo’s skills in the areas of print processing, reading comprehension and language comprehension, as well as recommendations for evidence-based interventions that specifically addressed his areas of weakness. Our school district then implemented these strategies and it’s made a HUGE difference.
However, we needed a similar camp for physically disabled children who use AAC. That’s how Camp ALEC came about. Camp ALEC (AAC – Literacy – Education – Communication) will be offered for the first time this summer July 26-August 2 at Variety Club Camp and Developmental Center in Worcester, PA. Struggling readers ranging from beginners to those who have diff
I am also thrilled to share that at Camp ALEC, approximately 20 educators will receive advanced, intensive, hands-on training in the Whole to Part Assessment model under the direction of Drs. Erickson and Koppenhaver. This means that children beyond the scope of camp will obtain the benefits of this unique experience because their teachers will be better equipped to evaluate their literacy skills and implement evidence-based interventions that promote greater reading comprehension.iculty with comprehension given books at their grade level–and whose primary communication mode is AAC–are highly encouraged to attend. Campers will enjoy regular recreational activities and also work daily with educational specialists on literacy-related activities. This camp will be directed by Drs. Karen Erickson and David Koppenhaver. Informal descriptive reports of literacy assessments and evidence-based interventions will be provided to families to share with their educational teams. Literacy activities will be delivered in 1:1 settings and customized based on each camper’s unique needs. Literacy activities include direct assessment of areas such as word identification, language comprehension, and print processing including cognitive tasks of eye movements, making links from printed words directly to their meanings, using inner speech to monitor comprehension, projecting prosody, and integrating all four skills. For the remainder of each day, literacy campers will enjoy recreational activities such as swimming, arts and crafts, field games, golf, tennis, computers, daily living skills, music, nature and more.
It has been a labor of love to pull this camp together in memory of our friend Alec, (see photo, above) who was unable to attend Camp Courage due to the severity of his disability and medical needs. It has been thrilling to work with Alec’s mother to make this opportunity available to similar children with complex needs—children who want desperately to learn to read and write just like their friends. The response we’ve received from parents and professionals across the country has been overwhelming. Campers will travel to Philadelphia from as far away as Colorado and Michigan. I can’t wait to see what this week will bring!
For information about Camp ALEC, please feel free to contact me at [email protected] or visit the Variety Club Camp and Developmental Center website at www.varietyphila.org.
About our Contributor: Tina Moreno M.A. CCC-SLP is a school-based speech-language pathologist serving children with moderate-intensive needs in grades 1-12. She is a wife and mother of two amazing children, a 14-year old AAC communicator and his big sister who is his biggest advocate.
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