Resources

Support Special Olympics

VerySpecialCamps.com encourages you to help ensure the existing baseline level of federal government funding remains in tact for Special Olympics; a program that benefits the lives of countless individuals in ways that are immeasurable. Let your voice be heard now:

Click Here to Take Action!

An excerpt from a news release from SpecialOlympics.org:

Special Olympics is a nonpartisan organization that strongly supports policies, legislation and practices that guarantee the rights, full participation, and integration of people with intellectual disabilities. Special Olympics recognizes the progress that has been made around the country in eliminating the stigma, stereotypes, isolation, and discrimination that people with intellectual disabilities face—most importantly around access to sport, health, and education opportunities and services.

We ask federal, state and local governments to join Special Olympics in remaining vigilant against any erosion of provisions that have made a substantial difference in the lives of people with ID. U.S. Government funding for our education programming is critical to protecting and increasing access to services for people with intellectual disabilities.

Read full article:

https://www.specialolympics.org/stories/news/special-olympics-responds-to-proposed-funding-cuts-for-education-programs-in-the-united-states

Learn more about Special Olympics:

https://www.specialolympics.org/

Mindfulness and Meditation at Camp

I can still recall the babbling brook and the ancient oak that provided a perfect back rest at the first camp I attended. Since then, campers (and staff) have seen a technological revolution boggles the mind. According to NASA even the now outdated iPhone 5 has 240,000 times the memory than was on Voyager I, the first human made craft to enter interstellar space. Suffice it to say, the world that campers today face is substantially different from the one of my youth. From school systems pushing digital conversation and American children (on average) having their first smart phone before age 11, perhaps there is some wisdom in Bill Gates indicating to USA Today that his children were 14 before they had that level of connectivity. What does this mean for camps?

The research supports that meaningful social skills connections happen with authentic face to face interactions and not through superficial screen time. An authentic camp experience can scaffold the opportunity for social success without a 21st century security blanket of a phone or smart device. Camp can and should be a place to develop smart and socially resilient children in a nurturing and fun environment. Mindfulness and meditation are two strategies that give children back the tools of the awesome power of quietude. Over the last several years, Camp Sequoia has intentionally incorporated mindfulness and meditation training into our staff orientation, established places and systems for our campers to be able to recapture the serenity of a babbling brook, and conscious self-reflection. These programs add to a wide array of traditional camp activities and recognize the value and importance of teaching and modeling a level of personal reflection as we empower our campers to become the best version of themselves.

Specifically, we’ve identified two meditation garden locations, a bench under a majestic pin oak and a “rustic retreat” experience that allows our campers the time to develop the naturalistic intelligence and peace that comes from meaningful interactions with nature. We’ve found that although there is oft some initial resistance to missing an Instagram post or a Facebook needs feed in our unplugged camp community, these experiences give our campers the opportunity, permission, and staff support to relax. Camper and family end of summer feedback to having these experiences has been as positive as the reviews of our STEM program or excitement about our weekly trips. We look forward to continuing these types of programs in 2019 and beyond.

–Brian Lux

Brian is the owner/director of Camp Sequoia whose work with has been presented at the World Gifted Conference, the ACA tri-states conference and numerous regional venues for parent and educators. A 20-year veteran of camping, he is a licensed K-12 gifted educator dedicated to the meaningful growth of exceptional populations. Details about his program can be found at www.camp-sequoia.com or by phone at 610-771-0111.

Recent Website Improvements

We’ve recently implemented several advancements designed to improve navigation on desktops, tablets, and mobile devices.

In particular, visitors are now presented with a fixed horizontal secondary navigational menu at the top of all camp listing profiles; as well as on pages that display listing results (mobile/tablet only).

Ultimately, the goal is provide all pertinent information to visitors as efficiently as possible; and whenever possible, minimize the need to scroll.

Please note: if you are experiencing issues viewing the website, please clear your web browser’s cache (delete temporary internet files) and reload VerySpecialCamps.com

We always welcome your input and encourage you to contact us with your thoughts and ideas.

Camp Directors: Update Your Camp Listing

Camp directors are encouraged to update your camp’s listing(s) on VerySpecialCamps.com with respect to any time sensitive information such as:

  • Session dates
  • Rates / cost
  • Changes in camp programming
  • New facilities
  • etc.

Click here  in order to modify your listing. You are welcome to update your information as often as necessary.

Alternatively, you can select Upgrade Listing instead if you are seeking to to upgrade your listing to a Multi-Media Listing ($99/yr. – 12 consecutive months):  affording a higher ranking than free listings and allows you to display:  a logo, 2 photos, map of camp location, and an embedded video.  During the upgrade process, you will be provided an opportunity to submit modifications to your listing.

If you are a prospective camper or parent seeking a summer camp for the summer of 2019, please keep in mind that many camps have yet to provide their updated information for next summer. It is always recommended that you contact a summer camp directly for the most up to date and accurate information.

New Website Interface Released

We are pleased to announce the implementation of a new website interface to improve navigation and functionality on both mobile and desktop platforms.

The new navigational format includes a fixed horizontal menu bar at the top of all pages; allowing visitors to quickly navigate the VerySpecialCamps.com website from any page location.

All individual camp listing pages will be rendered as a fixed width on all desktop screen resolutions; providing greater readability and consistency.

Site-Wide SSL Security Implemented

We are pleased to announce the recent implementation of SSL security to the entirety of the veryspecialcamps.com domain, as well as our other camp related directories located at the following URL’s:

https://www.campchannel.com (All types of camps / camp jobs)

https://www.CampRentalChannel.com (Camp Rentals)

While VerySpecialCamps.com does not gather or retain sensitive information from visitors seeking a camp (such as credit card or social security data), we believe an encrypted & secure site-wide interface provides an increased level of security & trust for all website activity and engagement.

Online since 2003, VerySpecialCamps.com strives to maintain its position and reputation as a leader in camp search for individuals with special needs.

New: Transition Program Added

Transition Program has recently been added to the list of searchable categories under “program type“.

Summer camps offering Transition Programs are designed to provide individuals with special needs a tailored plan involving the acquisition of necessary vocational, behavioral, and social skills to function independently as an adult within the workplace and other settings.  While many camps serving individuals with special needs address these issues to various extents, certain transition programs are more focused to facilitate a progression into meet responsibilities and attain the necessarily level of self-sufficiency required for independent living.

Currently, Transition Programs and Therapeutic Riding are the only two program type categories denoted on VerySpecialCamps.com that reflect specific modes of programming and education; as opposed to being a reflection of the underlying particular special need. In other words, there are a wide variety of underlying conditions that may be suitable for either a Transition Program or Therapeutic Riding. Nonetheless, it is important to discuss the particular nature and scope of any given program with the camp director or program administrator.

If you operator a camp offering a definitive Transition Program to individuals with special needs and would like to list your camp on VerySpecialCamps.com, please click here to review listing options and to sign up now.

Staff Ratios and staffing at Camp: Seven questions to ask

Just as schools, public and private, publish staff to student ratios, many camps provide prospective families with these numbers as an indication of supervision over the summer. When looking at these numbers it is important to keep several key questions in mind. Sometimes foodservice, maintenance, custodial and grounds keeping staff are included in these ratios, and savvy parent will delve more deeply into the numbers.

While certainly schools, or camps, count upon and value the good work of these support staff, their level of training and direct involvement in the life of your child may be different from trained education or human service professionals whose primary role is student or camper interaction. In general there are 7 basic questions to ask to determine if the staff and staffing ratio reflects the “ground truth” of who will be working with your child.

1)What staff members are included in the staffing ratio? This means, “ Do the secretaries and nurses count? What about the laundry staff or the dining hall folks?

2)Does the program use junior staff (counselors in training, junior counselors etc.) and are they reflected in the supervision ratio? Are high school students used as supervision of your child? If so, what is the supervisory structure for these junior staff?

3)What is the average staff age? While this isn’t a perfect metric, it can certainly speak to the culture of a program. If the average staff age is under 21, the camp will certainly have a different level of life experience in working with kids than if the average staff age is closer to 30.

4)Are the supervisory staff all college graduates? How many of the leadership team work with the population served by the camp in a year-round capacity as teachers, social workers, counselors etc.? Do they hold or are they pursuing advanced degrees?

5)How long is staff training? What assessments are used to determine staff mastery before your child arrives? Does this training include certification in Crisis Prevention, First Aid etc.?

6)What is the ratio of staff applicants to staff hires? This will give you an indication both the desirability to work at a given camp as well as the competitiveness of these positions.

7)Are there multiple background checks for staff (including an FBI fingerprint check) as part of the routine staffing process? Most states require background checks, but it is important to know that all due diligence is being taking to maintain a safe community. Pennsylvania, for example, requires 3 background checks including an FBI fingerprint check on all staff working with kids at camps or schools.

Each camp situation and camper population is different, but knowing the right staff questions to ask will help you make the best decision as to where your child has the greatest potential for success. The time and effort spent in building a quality-trained staff is fundamental to setting our campers up for the ability to become their best selves.

–Brian Lux, Camp Sequoia

Brian is the director of Camp Sequoia whose work with exceptional populations has been twice presented at the World Gifted Conference. He is a Crisis Prevention Instructor and licensed educator who has spent the last two decades dedicated to training superior camp staff to make meaningful and profound differences in the lives of kids. Details about his resident camp program can be found at www.camp-sequoia.com or by email at office@camp-sequoia.com

Visit CampRentalChannel.com for group rental opportunities

Are you seeking a facility to host a special event, retreat, family reunion, wedding, company outing, or other large event?  A large number of summer camps make their facilities available for rent  to groups looking to host various events and functions prior to and upon completion of their primary camp sessions.

CampRentalChannel.com is specifically dedicated to camp rentals and has recently received several significant feature additions and enhancements to improve usability on both desktops and mobile devices.  Visitors to CampRentalChannel.com are able to quickly obtain specific and detailed information with respect to particular criteria of any given group’s needs with respect to a group rental situation:

Programming and other services offered

Available dates

Cost

Facilities available for use

Lodging Accomodations

Dining options

Conference & meeting rooms

If you are a director of a camp that offers group rentals and would like to list your camp on CampRentalChannel.com, feel free to view listing options and sign up at:

http://www.camprentalchannel.com/directors/apply.shtml

The Importance of Structure For Twice-Exceptional Mind

7 Strategies and Tips from Camp Sequoia

Twice-exceptional youth, those with demonstrated above average abilities with a secondary diagnosis that can serve as a social speed bump to engaging with peers effectively, can benefit from intentional structural strategies for success.

Beyond functional print, countdown reminders to transitions, and anticipatory sets, there are many ways high-functioning individuals who are carry a secondary diagnosis can benefit from an intentionally structured environment. It is important to provide this structure in a way that is both developmentally and cognitively appropriate for the student. The below strategies and tips are useful in a camp setting to maximize potential for positive outcomes.

1)Plan intentional spaces. Campers succeed if they have spaces where they can blend social growth with time for reflection. Age specific lounge spaces for campers in climate-controlled environments are wonderful counterpoints to having roommate interactions. Spaces that work regardless of weather are a huge asset to this population. An indoor pool, for example, means that there will not be a unexpected schedule interruption due to inclement weather. Similar principals work in a home and school environment.

2)Offer limited, but meaningful choices. Developmentally, having too many choices can be an overwhelming situation, but having no choices can feel disempowering. An appropriate compromise involves giving children a limited, but desirable palette of options (with plenty of notice) for them to have input into their day. Obviously, there is a sliding scale both in terms of autonomy and flexibility of choices based upon camper age.

3)Recognize and celebrate strengths. Working with the twice-exceptional mind often means tapping into a variety of support structures in both education and the community. As a licensed educator, too often the default is to look at perceived deficits as potholes to be filled in rather than celebrating strengths and using those to build confidence and ability to steer around those potholes. Coming from a position of strength helps to build confidence and empower growth.

4)Craft teachable moments. Inquiry learning is both an art and a science. It should not be enough to have someone teach art to a twice-exceptional child. The teaching of art should be used as a tool to help build confidence, social understandings, and context specific successes.

5)Allow for minor failures. Minor adversity facilitates growth. Giving the twice-exceptional child the ability to become more confident by learning from minor failures can ultimately boost self-confidence. For example, attempting a new activity or art project that is difficult will help twice-exceptional youth learn to increase their frustration tolerance and coping skills while understanding that often the process can be as important as the product.

6)Plan intellectual growth. Getting buy in beyond 3-D printing, or conversations with the international space station, the twice-exceptional mind often has insights that can be fostered through scaffolded topical conversations. At Camp Sequoia it is not unusual to sit in on deep conversations between campers on big philosophical issues of the day with trained staff scaffolding the discourse as needed to ensure that all campers are benefitting from the experience.

7)Reflect with stakeholders. At the end of the intentional experience, it is key to reflect with stakeholders and discuss successes, failures, perceptions, and recommendations for further opportunities to be successful in the classroom and beyond during the academic year (both in school and community settings)

–Brian Lux

Brian is the director of Camp Sequoia whose work with this population has been presented at the World Gifted Conference multiple times. He is a licensed K-12 gifted educator and has spent the last several decades dedicated to the meaningful growth of exceptional populations. Details about his program can be found at www.camp-sequoia.com or by email at office@camp-sequoia.com