Inclusion is not easy. It takes commitment, creativity and time to help every student learn and participate. So congratulations to the wonderful teachers and staff at the Sacramento County Office of Education (SCOE) who realized that with summer just around the corner it was time to take inclusion outdoors as well. The result? A first ever inclusive Technology and Recreation camp at nearby Sly Park Conservation and Environmental Education Center.
Camp for students with significant disabilities is challenging because of the level of support required for the students. However, inspired by the activity-based and participatory philosophies of the MOVE Program, SCOE staff wanted to use the new inclusive camping venture to make the camp accessible to every student. And it succeeded wonderfully. One hundred students, 10 of whom had significant disabilities, came together over the weekend to enjoy the thrills and excitement of summer camping. Those needing assistance were helped by “buddy partners” for all camp activities from hiking to silk-screening t-shirts to performing campfire skits and songs. Assistive technology and adaptive equipment in the form of gait trainers, transfer and mobility devices and seating systems were available to the students to trial towards achieving the best level of participation possible.
In the words of Sheila Wolfe, SCOE MOVE Program Consultant and inspiration behind the inclusion camp: “From start to finish we laughed, we learned, we listened, we connected, we sang, we walked, climbed and rolled over all kinds of terrain. Many friendships were made, lots of steps were taken, new insights and ideas emerged. We were humbled and amazed by the strengths and needs of the families and students with disabilities. It was totally awesome!”
Miriam, participating in camp with her mom Ayde, glowed at being included in all activities and forming new friendships. She played, trialed equipment and had her new friends push her on the hike along Manzanita trail.
According to Ayde: “There were moments I wondered if heaven would be like this, a beautiful place filled with warm, welcoming and wonderful people making others feel good, included and just loved.”
To everyone involved, the camp experience went above and beyond expectations, and—everyone agrees—there will be more to come.
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