This past summer, we dropped our son off at summer camp. What is a typical and recurring experience for many children and their parents was a new experience for our family. You see, unlike the thousands of children who attend various types of camps each year, our son is an adult. And this was not your run-of-the-mill summer camp.
A special kind of camp
Our son and several of his peers attended a camp designed for individuals living with the effects of a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). This camp is offered every summer for one week. While at this camp, these survivors have the opportunity to experience life as they remember living before their injury. They live as independently as their circumstances allow them and have experiences that otherwise may not be an option for them in their everyday lives.
Setting up for success
Each camper is paired with a volunteer assistant for the week. However the camp is specifically designed to allow each camper to be as independent as possible with assistance from their volunteer only when asked. This aides the survivors in testing their limits and capabilities in a safe environment with support when necessary and often helps facilitate gaining new skills or regaining old ones.
Since a TBI often affects executive functioning, tasks like initiation and planning can be challenging. To support these needs, the camp displays a large calendar, showing all the daily and weekly activities. As it is always visible, campers can refer to it whenever necessary to decide upon or remember their next activity.
Some of the camp activities include fishing, canoeing, a climbing wall, zip lining, boating, biking, and a ropes course. All of the activities are adapted to the needs of each camper, so they are able to participate to the best of their abilities. Our son particularly enjoyed the ropes course. Although he said it was the most difficult activity he tried, he wanted to challenge himself. He also has always enjoyed fishing, so to be able to participate in that at camp with all his friends was another of his favorites.
Speaking of the camp activities, each camper participates in whichever activities are of interest to them. This allows them to make most of their own choices throughout the week, something which has been taken away from them in many cases. Although there is a structure in place, it exists without making the survivors feel as though they are coddled or treated as not capable.
By the end of the week, it was evident that the higher functioning survivors enjoyed helping their fellow campers when needed. They worked together as a community, using whatever skills, gifts, and talents they brought to the team. One major benefit to this was they no longer had time to focus on themselves and their shortcomings. It also opened their world to see others experiencing the same challenges.
Like all summer camps, this one did come to an end. And, like many campers, these TBI survivors long to return. They think about the independence they gained, the community they formed, and the fun they experienced and would love for it to happen again.
And what if it could happen again? Not just for one week each summer, but forever?
Creating the Villa Licci residence will give these adults living with TBIs a lifetime feeling of being at camp. Daily they’ll be creating community with those who are living the same experiences. They’ll have more opportunities to help and support one another. And they’ll be there encouraging each other to be more independent and live their best lives every day.