YMCA Sherman Lake Camp Supports Every Camper

In 2011, The Connect Kalamazoo Network developed a Community Commitment to Inclusions Checklist. Organizations can use the checklist to self-assess their commitment to including people with disabilities. There are four sections of the checklist: 1. Organization Leadership and Administration 2. Support for Individuals with Disabilities 3. Opportunities for Individuals with Disabilities to Build Relationships and Contribute 4. Accessibility

The Blog this week is about innovative ways that the YMCA Sherman Lake Camp Supports campers with disabilities.

The Arcadia Institute has had a long relationship with the YMCA Sherman Lake Camp. Over the years, we helped to pay for extra staff to support campers with disabilities. We also provided training and coaching for the camp staff. For a few summers, we provided Interns who helped support campers with disabilities.

This extra support from staff, training/coaching and interns was not the typical “one on one” camper support. In other words, the focus was not completely on the camper with the disability. The YMCA Sherman Lake camp counselors continued to be responsible for all the campers in their group and didn't give up that responsibility if there was an Intern with the group.

One of the Arcadia Institute Interns really highlighted the value of not having “one on one” arrangements. She said that when the counselors expected her to do all of the redirecting of behavior for one young camper, he started “pushing” her buttons. When all of the counselors also took responsibility, he realized that they were all paying attention. He no longer could do whatever he wanted in order to get the Intern’s attention.

A couple of summers ago, The YMCA Sherman Lake Camp decided to hire in Inclusion Specialist to be the coach for the camp counselors when there were children with disabilities at the camp. So they no longer needed Interns from The Arcadia Institute. They also integrated learning how to support campers with disabilities throughout their whole training rather than having The Arcadia Institute do a special session about disabilities. For example, as the counselors learn about water safety they consider situations in which they may have a camper with autism. As they learn about how to teach children on the climbing wall, they talk about possible accommodations for disabilities.

The YMCA Sherman Lake Camp demonstrates the ability to support campers with disabilities. They work together as a team to be creative and make accommodations for any camper who might need support – from a camper with a disability to a camper who is home sick to a camper who is unfamiliar with the outdoors.