Summer Camp for Children with Hearing Loss: An Interview with the Founders of Camped Up

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Finding a summer camp for your child with hearing loss can be a tricky endeavor. While summer programs can be a time when your child expands their horizons in a new environment, it can also be tricky when you have to teach counselors about communication needs, and equipment troubleshooting.

Enter Dana Selznick. I recently had the opportunity to connect with this Hearing Education Service (HES) provider, who works on the Upper West Side in New York City. Dana, along with her two partners Arielle Ditkowich and Brittany Prell (fellow HES providers) is opening a summer program designed specifically for Hearing Aid and Cochlear Implant users.

I caught up with the three co-founders of Camped Up and we had the chance to discuss how they met, goals of the program, and summer camp memories!

 

 

It sounds like you three have a bunch great energy going on between you. How did you meet?

Dana and Arielle became instant friends during orientation on the first day of grad school. The next year Brittany started the same program and all the professors kept telling each of us how similar we were to each other. When the three of us finally met it was clear our professors knew us well, we have been friends ever since. After graduation we all started careers as New York City HES providers and have succeeded with each others help and guidance.

Why a summer camp? Where did idea for Camped Up come from?

Arielle is very active in summer camps and was thinking about a way to bring her love of camp to students in the New York area. She approached Dana and Brittany with the idea of starting a camp in NYC for Hearing Aid and Cochlear Implant users and they jumped on the idea! She also thought of Neil, a good friend and former camp director at her lifelong sleepaway camp who now runs multiple camps throughout the US. Upon calling him for advice, he loved the idea so much he immediately said he wanted to be a part of it and offered years of camp and administrative expertise.

One dinner later, Camped Up was formed.  We ran the idea by a few parents and they loved it. 


What can you tell me about Camped Up? What will it offer for children with hearing loss that other camps don’t?

We have created a camp that every child in New York would fall in love with.  The reason that it is a specialized camp for hearing loss and spoken language is because we make the environment conducive for listening.

Our camp avoids any acoustic challenges by providing appropriate modifications to the environment. We have the tools, technology and training necessary to provide the best possible experience for all of our campers. This camp has something for everybody. 

Whether you are into sports, arts and crafts or science, Camped Up is an all around fun day camp!   

 

What do you hope Camped Up will accomplish? What experiences do you want children to have?

We thought that it would be a great idea to provide children with a summer camp experience in which they could come together and play with other Hearing Aid and Cochlear Implant users. We hope that our campers will gain a sense of pride and comfort with their hearing loss, and make new friendships within this community. 

We want our campers to have an all around amazing summer camp experience. We want them excited to come to camp in the morning and not wanting to leave at the end of the day. At the end of camp we hope they will go home with new friends, the same love for camp that we had as campers, and memories from the exciting activities that they will be talking about for months to come.

 

Can you tell me a bit about the experiences you all bring to the camp?

All three of us have a dual masters degree from Columbia University- Teachers College in Deaf and Hard of Hearing Education. There we learned how to use all forms of assistive technology, and have been implementing these skills throughout our careers as New York City HES providers. Together we have years of camp experience and involvement in a wide variety of programs geared towards children. And most importantly we all share a love of children. 

Did any of you go to camp as a child? What memories do you have?

You could say that, collectively we have over 45 years of camp experience! All of us have attended day camps, sleep away camps and have gone from counselors, to group leaders throughout the years.

Dana’s favorite memories from camp are the camp songs and cheers she learned and sang throughout the summers.

Brittany loved the circle games and team building activities she played with her camp friends.

Arielle’s favorite memory was making a picture frame in Arts and Crafts that still sits on her desk with pictures from camp.

 Is there anything else you want to share about Camped Up?

We just want everyone to know that CampedUp’s main goal is to provide an awesome summer for your child!

Thank you for taking the time to meet with me, and I wish you all a great summer of creating camp memories for a new generation of children. For more information about Camped Up, please visit their website at www.campedup.com

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Your Child’s IEP: Focusing on What They Can Do

parent-teacher-conferences-frustratedIt’s IEP review season, at least in New York State, and that means it’s time to sit down and listen to the educators and therapists who work with your child to discuss his progress, or lack thereof. Depending upon the relationship between the members of your child’s teaching team the meeting will either be a positive event where you can walk away and feel assured that he is on the right path, or it can be an exercise in frustration as you leave feeling that his needs are not being met.

During this time there is a tendency by all involved (parents, educators, and therapists) to focus on the learning and behavior problems that your child has, and little time is spent discussing the strengths that she brings to the classroom. If goals are not being met on an IEP and there are still areas of weakness, then the solution is often to increase time spent on these areas. Is your child struggling with writing? Then let’s make her spend more time on isolated writing exercises. Is your child having problems following multi-step directions? Then lets pull him out of the classroom and make him practice this skill.

While I am not against providing children with opportunities to increase their skills and knowledge through practice (Malcolm Gladwell suggests it takes 10,000 hours of practicing a specific task to become successful.) I do think that we often focus on the weaknesses of our children at the expense of their strengths.

Stanley Greenspan, in his book Playground Politics: Understanding the Emotional Life of Your School-Age Child, asks us to imagine how we would feel if we were made to spend 90 percent of our time doing tasks that were difficult. One example he uses is what if you were right handed, but made to write with your left hand several hours a day. The results would be frustrating and would not make you develop enjoyment of the task. Dr. Greenspan’s suggestion is to “spend no more than 50 percent of practice time on a child’s weakness,” the other 50 percent of the time should be spent on developing your child’s natural strengths.

Think of ways to help your child use their strengths to develop their weaknesses. By working together with your child’s IEP team you should be able to arrive at some creative solutions, rather than simply writing down the same old frustrating exercises.

 

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Why is it a Deaf Thing?

see_what_sayingDespite the fact that my cable carrier provides me with a ridiculous number of channels it can be difficult finding anything of interest to watch. Flipping through the channels the other night I was fortunate enough to come across the documentary See What I’m Saying: The Deaf Entertainer’s Documentary. I don’t remember hearing about it when it was first released, but I sure am glad I found it.

Directed and produced by Hilari Scarl, the film follows four deaf entertainers, Robert DeMayo (actor), Bob Hiltermann (drummer), CJ Jones (comic), and TL Forsberg (singer), as they work towards finding their way in the entertainment industry.

Despite their obvious talents and success in the “Deaf world” the entertainers are virtually unknown in the hearing world. The documentary is not preachy, but instead it highlights the divides and separations between two cultures, and what it might take to break down barriers.

One of the most powerful moments for me came when Ms. Forsberg, who is not “Deaf” but rather hard of hearing, describes how her hearing loss leaves her trying to fit into both the hearing and the deaf world, and in some sense being rejected by both. I get that. That is exactly where my son and I fit in, or don’t fit in.

This lack of fitting in is one of the parts of the Deaf community that I don’t understand. Many of the complaints I hear from the Deaf community are about the barriers that the hearing world sets up, what I don’t hear though is that the Deaf community puts up just as many barriers to those with different degrees of hearing loss who want to enter the Deaf community. I get the pain, frustration, and discrimination that the deaf community has gone through, but I also get that there is strength in numbers and that it’s important to allow new members into a community. Erecting barriers won’t lead to greater acceptance, but instead to further isolation.

I used to be hearing, now I have hearing loss. I know others who used to have hearing loss, and are now deaf. Hearing, hearing loss, and deafness are all just different points on the same continuum. Realities that can shift seemingly overnight.

 

 

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