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Building Bridges Camp

For children throughout the United States, summer provides long days, warm nights and an opportunity to go to camp. Many organizations offer children with physical and communication disabilities opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors with their friends and playmates, but few camp programs focus on providing young augumentative and alternative communication (AAC) system users with the opportunity to learn more and do more with their communication systems.

Building Bridges Camp is that opportunity. Children and young adults who use AAC can develop their communication skills in a fun, motivating, no-pressure environment. The program is a collaboration between the Bridge School and the Crippled Children's Society of Santa Clara County, Inc.

Campers who use an AAC system usually come to camp with a teacher or other professional who knows them. Like any camp, Building Bridges is a good opportunity for campers to develop increased independence, so parents do not attend. An overnight camp experience gives campers and professionals important time together. There is time to work, learn, teach and play in an environment that reinforces the idea that communication is powerful and fun; and where there is always a way to let your thoughts be known.

  Camp is a unique setting for intensive instructuion. Childen benefit from individual and small group instruction in using their AAC systems. They learn more about how they can make the technology work for them. They learn uses for vocabulary. New experiences give them new ideas about what they can say. Most importantly, they learn that they can interact with others, children and adults. Along with this, they participate in the traditional activities you find at camp -- fishing, horseback riding, swimming and sports. Friendships grow with their cabin mates and camp counselors -- sometimes lifelong friendships.

Professionals, including speech language pathologists, therapists, instructional assistants and teachers attend the camp to work with and learn from campers. It works best if the professional is someone who knows the camper, and will continue the relationship once camp is over. An overnight camp experience lets them see the children outside an academic environment and beyond the usual school hours. They share in experiencing how communication affects not only the education, but the lives of the children. They learn ways to foster their growth and development beyond the camp experience.

For further information regarding Building Bridges Camp, please contact Outreach Program Manager Cassie Sementelli.

Bridge Dancers

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