2019 Special Needs Therapeutic Camp beneficial for campers

 ONE-ON-ONE – Youngsters attending the 2019 Special Needs Therapeutic Camp got one-on-one assistance with visiting Speech Therapists from Washington, DC’s Howard University. (PHOTOS: JENNEVA RUSSELL)

The Grand Bahama Down Syndrome Society is hosting its 2019 Special Needs Therapeutic Camp and camp organizers, in a press conference on Thursday (July 11) at The Beacon School, provided details about camp activities.

President of the GB Down Syndrome Society Wende Hanna, shared that this is the camp’s second year.

She furthered that the Occupational Therapist and a team of Speech Therapists from Washington, DC’s Howard University are a part of this year’s activities.

“It has been an excellent experience so far,” she said.

Hanna added that the students are deprived of learning these skills throughout the regular school year, because there are no Speech Therapists Programme being conducted on the island at that time.

She also took the opportunity to thank the Grand Bahama community for making this opportunity possible.

“Without people supporting our ‘Rock Your Socks’ initiative earlier in the year, we would not have been able to raise the funds to bring in these professionals to the island to provide this to our kids,” she said.

Hanna revealed that 32 children have registered for the camp this year, some of them have Down Syndrome and others have intellectual disabilities like Autism.

She added that the youngsters are able to attend the camp free of charge, where the Speech Therapist will conduct two weeks of lessons, and the Occupational Therapist will be there for three weeks.

The professionals will be able to give the students and their parents the tools they need to develop their various speech and motor skills, Hanna revealed.

Speech and Language Pathologist Dr. Shameka Stanford spoke about her role at the camp.

She noted that the camp has been going well, especially considering some of the children never received such lessons before.

“To see the progress in two weeks has been amazing,” she said.

Dr. Stanford furthered that the students were very receptive during lessons.

“They are really open to understanding that there are techniques and skills that they can use to help them communicate. They’ve been really excited about the engagement of someone helping them to reduce the frustration to express what they want to say, so it’s been a good experience and opportunity for them,” she said.

She explained that speech and language are important life skills, because it is the basis for how people engage and communicate with one another effectively.

“So, it affects your quality of life overall,” said Dr. Stanford.

She added that it helps the students to express their feelings effectively and children with special needs often experience frustration, when they are unable to do that.

She noted that it also gives parents and guardians peace of mind. “It allows them to know that regardless of where they go in the world, they’ll be able to be understood and be able to communicate.”

Occupational Therapist Charlis Roberts, echoed similar sentiments with the progress that the students made so far.

“The camp is going really well. I worked the camp last year, so it’s great to see repeat campers; new campers, kids that go to The Beacon School and kids that go to regular school that also need intervention,” she added.

Roberts explained that occupational therapy in pediatrics work in conjunction with schools and parents, to provide children with the skills they need to function in their daily lives.

“It consists of teaching children things like fastening their clothing, so they can use the bathroom, handwriting and other fine motor skills. We give them intervention in order to make that happen,” she said.

Roberts furthered that this type of therapy also focuses on activities of daily living (ADL). “So that is feeding themselves, dressing themselves, even making up the bed and doing small chores.”

Roberts expressed that working with the speech and language pathologist this year, has been amazing and really helped everyone involved in the camp.

“We’re two weeks in and there has been major improvement. I was just telling one of the teachers that her entire class learned to use the scissors between this week and last week, so that’s a big deal to me,” she added.

The Beacon School Principal Titi McKenzie-Moss spoke about the camp’s benefits. “It’s so good that we have the Speech Therapists down to give speech assistance to our kids, because they normally don’t get it in the normal school year.”

McKenzie-Moss furthered that these lessons will assist the teachers as well as the students.

“I think it definitively will help not only the students but also our teachers, because they also plan to give them tools that they can actually use in the new school year with our children, so we are really grateful,” she said.

She expressed gratitude to the GB Down Syndrome Society for providing this opportunity to the children.

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