A Recent Article Of Interest

(The following is an abstract of an article, "Camping for Severely Disabled Children," by Richard M. Switzer and Margaret Clarke, which appeared in the September/October 1964 issue of Rehabilitation Record.

Mr. Switzer is director of the camp described, and Miss Clarke is program consultant for the camp's sponsor, the Association for Crippled Children and Adults of New York State-the Easter Seal Society.)

A variety of stimuli-social, intellectual, physical, and creative-is necessary to foster the growth of a child's capacities and to help him learn to function as a capable adult. The child who is confined at home with a severe physical disability is deprived of many of the normal day-to-day experiences to which other children are exposed.

To meet the needs of the homebound child, the Easter Seal Day Camp at the Human Resources compound, Albertson, New York was established four years ago. It is financed by the Easter Seal Society, in association with Human Resources, a division of Abilities, Incorporated, an industrial firm employing only disabled persons. Human Resources is a nonprofit research organization in the field of physical disability.

Priority for admission to the Easter Seal Day Camp is given to the most severely disabled. There are no physical restrictions. Even the incontinent are accepted. The camp season is six weeks.

In 1964, thirty-six children, eighteen girls and eighteen boys, aged 5 to 17, attended the camp. Of these, fourteen were confined to wheelchairs, nine used braces, crutches or prostheses, and twelve were incontinent.

All facilities are specially designed to accommodate the handicapped-the building itself, the bowling alley, the swimming pool, and the bus used for field trips.

THE CAMP PROGRAM

The overall program is planned to help the children develop independence and self-confidence, to broaden their experience with other people and with the world, and to challenge them to use their abilities.

The sports program includes baseball, croquet, swimming and bowling. The arts and crafts program makes use of clay, paints, colored paper and a variety of other materials. Other programs include puppet shows, music performance, "wheel chair dances", and field trips to museums, summer theaters, and other points of interest.

Three activities comprise the pre-vocational program. The older boys are introduced to electronics and taught soldering and wiring through assembling radio sets. The older girls learn sewing by hand and by machine. The older children also take a junior counseling course.

One of the most beneficial aspects of the camp is its location on the grounds of Abilities, Incorporated where the children have continual contact with severely disabled adult workers.

EFFECTS ON BEHAVIOR

The staff members noticed encouraging behavior changes during the six weeks. The children became generally more confident and self-reliant, exhibiting increased competence and independence in self-care and ambulation. Many began to give help to those more severely disabled than they.

An increase in social skills was also evident. The children talked to one another more freely, forming individual and group friendships. Many showed less tendency to withdraw from others.

Formal evaluation of the impact of this day camp care remains to be made; but the observed results are encouraging enough to warrant further programs of this nature.