Summer Camps Address Speech & Hearing

Speech-language-hearing intervention programs are designed to maximize a child’s communication growth. Various summer camps are offered across the United States to help children focus on enhancing social language skills in a relaxed and enjoyable atmosphere.

Summer speech-language-hearing camps provide interventions to children who might otherwise have little to no speech-language-hearing programming during summer months, explained Brenda Seal, PhD, professor and director of speech-language pathology in the hearing, speech, language sciences department at Gallaudet University and professor emerita in communication sciences and disorders at James Madison University.

Summer camps are often designed to focus on social language and to prompt, nurture and measure the generalization of social language across activities and communication partners, Seal shared. “The ultimate goal is to maximize a child’s communication growth,” she said. “Camps generally focus on the language of daily activities, especially the language associated with fun summer activities.”

Seal acknowledges that the goals established in summer camps are as unique as the children’s communication needs. A few common scenarios, according to Seal, include setting the goal for a young boy to wear his working hearing aids all morning by the third week of summer camp or helping another young camper add 25 new written words associated with his iPad’s Scene Speak.

The campers aren’t the only ones sharpening their skills, according to Seal. The university camp setting allows speech-language pathology and audiology students to benefit from hands-on learning experiences with special populations, and sometimes, with specialized interventions.

Gallaudet University offers a camp for children with hearing loss, called Camp SHARP (Speech-Hearing-Aural Rehabilitation Program), which serves as a training experience for the university’s SLP and AUD students. The students have an opportunity to work on bimodal-bilingual intervention with a diverse group of children whose families use different languages and modes of communication at home.

University Summer Setting

School-based SLPs and educational audiologists are often bound by their students’ IEPs to academic language and language associated with the Common Core State Standards, Seal told ADVANCE. Summer camps, on the other hand, are not bound to a school curriculum.

At university summer camps, clinicians in training have the opportunity to work on assignments they might not encounter in the typical hearing and speech training clinics during fall and spring semesters. According to Seal, some camps do clinician rotations so the graduate student clinicians (and undergraduate assistants) can gain experience working with different clinical populations such as autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy and severe-profound hearing loss.

Students working in the summer autism camps at James Madison University, for example, rotate between applied behavioral analysis (ABA) intervention groups and developmental, individual-difference, relationship-based (DIR) intervention groups.

“The most obvious benefit of summer camps is the ‘my-child-is-not-the-only-one’ camaraderie that parents experience during drop-off and pick-up, and during observations and special celebration days,” Seal noted. “Those benefits, while not as clearly expressed in their participating children, are often observed in the social relationships children experience with their peer campers.”

Seal believes that while all children can benefit in some capacity from summer programs, the gains must be measured against losses. “I’ve seen children who were already toileting independently regress the first week or two of a camp experience,” she observed.

Additionally, children with autism may take longer to acclimate to changes in routine and personnel than children with other communication delays, differences and disorders. Most importantly, Seal said, summer camps should augment, not replace, a family’s summer adventures.

“Camps should be fun for all involved including the children and their families, the clinicians and camp leaders, and the administrators and sponsors,” Seal said. “If it doesn’t feel like fun, then something’s not working.”

Rebecca Mayer Knutsen is a staff writer. Contact:

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Summer Sessions

The summer camp programs offered at Texas Woman’s University in Denton, Texas, are led by master’s level graduate students under the direct supervision of licensed speech-language pathologists. During the camp sessions, the clinicians set aside time to address individualized goals with each child.

“The goals are incorporated into fun group activities such as arts and crafts, fine and gross motor development, snacks, music and literacy curriculum,” shared Melissa Stockholm, MEd, CCC/SLP, assistant clinical professor and clinic director, department of communication sciences and disorders.

Texas Woman’s University offers a summer session called Preschool Articulation & Language Services (PALS), which is a literacy-based approach to instruction that allows remediation of speech errors in context for preschool children with typically developing receptive language skills. Each week, the activities are based on a children’s book and specific phonological targets including sequential targeting of sound patterns.

“In our programs, the children practice newly learned skills in fun and functional ways throughout the sessions,” said Laura Moorer-Cook, CCC/SLP, associate clinical professor and SLP program director, communication sciences and disorders at Texas Woman’s University.

Listening & Oral Language (LOL) Play Group, offered at Texas Woman’s University, benefits children who are deaf/hard of hearing or have auditory processing challenges. The program targets skills such as auditory skill development, phonological awareness, auditory memory, language comprehension, and social interactions using spoken language.

“Small group activities use a developmental approach to target preschool and school aged skills in listening and spoken language by engaging children in dramatic play, literacy-based experiences, music, movement, and hands-on science activities,” said Stockholm.

The therapists noted that parent involvement is an integral part of the summer camp sessions. Homework packets, newsletters, and parent education and training provide opportunities for carryover and generalization of skills at home and in other functional settings.

-Rebecca Mayer Knutsen

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