Imagine that every day you are the only one in your entire school who can’t verbally speak. You have a lot to say, but you need to use a high-tech communication device with a touchscreen, a switch, or even your eyes to say it.
Then, one day, you’re not the only one: you’re surrounded by kids who use similar devices as you. You’re no longer alone: you’re at Camp Communicate at Pine Tree Camp where all the campers use high-tech devices to communicate.
This innovative five-day program is the only one of its kind in Maine, and one of the only in New England, and took place this summer at Pine Tree Camp’s fully accessible 285-acre facility with Pine Tree Society staff and volunteers experienced in accessible recreation, speech language pathology, and augmentative communication and assistive technology.
This one-of-a-kind camp for children who are non-verbal was once again at full capacity. Kids and their families from across New England came to Maine to experience typical camp fun with a specialized twist.
“We aim to help our campers experience multiple language opportunities, past simply requesting or answering yes and no questions; encouraging them to make comments, advocate for themselves and engage in fun, social activities that connects them in deep and meaningful ways with staff, their families and their peers,” said Linda Bonnar-Ivery, Director of Communication Pathways at Pine Tree Society.
Campers spent a week making friends, learning new skills and becoming comfortable and confident in their communication abilities. All activities and programs focused on the independence kids gain when they are able to communicate. Connections are key for these families who often times feel alone and isolated, and those connections made often last well beyond camp.