CELINA — Wright State University Lake Campus hosted Camp TALK by the Lake this week, teaching communication to nine special education students who connect with others sharing similar challenges.
On Friday, students wrapped up those experiences, and said goodbye to new friends, ready to enter the school year more prepared for bonding with students and teachers. The day offered more speech therapy in one day than the students would receive in school in a week, broken up by fun activities.
They kicked off the mornings with group speech and language therapy, rotate to science and nature classes, arts and crafts, then sports before swimming. They learn to follow a recipe by making snacks every day, and their games encourage gross motor skills.
The camp employs certified teachers for sports, arts and nature, along with three licensed speech pathologists. It was Kristen Hopf’s second year working at the camp. Each day had a different animal theme, with insects, ocean, wild, zoo and domesticated animals. While students have varying abilities, the friendships are part of the work of the camp, because many of the students have difficulty with social skills, Hopf said.
Also working the camp were Wright State University Lake Campus education students, who can work the camp as part of their volunteer hours. Hopf said while they only need approximately two days to fulfill the requirements, many of them have stayed on all week, which has been good for the students.
“It’s a great opportunity to gain experience, and see some of the same needs they would find in their classroom,” she said. Camp Director Molly Hay has overseen the behind-the-scenes efforts since January to raise funds from community members, set aside the days, reserve rooms, organize talent, and get the individualized education programs for each student to the teachers. The IEPs include the students’ goals for next year and gave the teachers a head start on connecting with the students.
“Last year went so incredibly smooth, it was almost alarming,” Hopf said. The only difference this year was the camp shortened the day by an hour.
“It’s a busy day packed full of activities,” Hopf said. “By the end of the day the teachers and students are exhausted. But come the next morning they’re excited to do it again.”