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Winter 2005 Table of Contents
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Mosquito Netting or Pay Check — Which Will You Choose?

By Ron Lucey, Medical Services Specialist

Abstract: This article, updated and reprinted from Winter 2002 edition of See/Hear, discusses types of summer camp experiences and provides suggestions for selecting a camp for your child.

Key Words: News & Views, blind, visually impaired, camps, day camps, recreation, socialization, work experience, work program

Each January, I try to motivate families to start planning for their child's summer activities even though the Central Texas winter seems endless and summer still seems a distant notion. Recently I was inspired by my colleagues to broaden the annual summer camp article to include other suggestions for making the most of your child's summer break to better prepare them for their future.

Will Your Choice Be Mosquito Netting?

There are a lot of benefits to be gained from attending camp, including telling war stories on the size of the mosquitoes swarming the campsite. Younger children may benefit from attending shorter camp sessions or day camp programs recommended for campers who may not be emotionally prepared to spend a week or more away from home. Often city parks and recreation departments sponsor day camps that seek to include youth with disabilities in city sponsored recreational and learning activities. Be sure to meet early with the recreation or day camp coordinator to insure that your child's needs for meaningful participation are accommodated.

For many older children, residential summer camp programs offer a good opportunity to practice and learn new skills, develop a greater sense of confidence and independence, meet peers with similar interests, make new friends and, most importantly, have fun. An updated list of popular residential summer camp programs and other summer programs targeting youth who are blind or visually impaired may be found on the TSBVI web site at <www.tsbvi.edu>. Type in the word "camps" in the search box and view the 2004 Summer Camp directory as well as articles related to summer camp selection.

Suggestions for Selecting a Camp:

  1. Be aware of camp deadlines. The more popular camp sessions fill up fast, leaving your family with fewer choices for camps and desired sessions if you fail to beat the rush. By Spring Break make sure you have made a final camp selection.
  2. Call early (January or February) to request a camp application form. Some forms take longer to complete and may require a medical release signed by your child's doctor.
  3. Talk to other parents, VI teachers, DBS children's caseworkers or Transition counselors about the camp you are considering for your child. Visit the camp's web site or, if possible, consider a visit to the camp in the off-season.

Will Your Choice Include Earning a Paycheck (or valuable work experience)?

At an early age most of us can remember having a work experience, even if it was a volunteer job at our local church or hospital. Work experience is crucial for the vocational development of children who are blind or visually impaired. This summer, instead of considering the same camp options, why don't you consider involving your child in a summer work experience — either informal or formal?

Younger children benefit from having responsibility for jobs around the house and the reward of earning a little extra spending money. Focus on the jobs or portion of jobs your child is able to perform and work to teach them to develop alternative techniques for accomplishing other more challenging household chores. Suggested chores for younger kids include feeding and caring for the family pet, helping with laundry, washing and putting away dishes and, yes, even yard work. In addition to promoting jobs around the home, consider volunteer experiences with local organizations and/or businesses. Some experiences to consider are helping out in a friend's hair salon folding towels and sweeping, being a junior camp counselor at a local day camp, or volunteering at museums. To explore these options, contact your TCB Children's Program caseworker.

Older youth may wish to explore paid work outside the home through a summer job with a local employer. Local workforce centers offer a good resource for finding paid jobs in the community. The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) website has a list of all local workforce centers as well as online job banks for performing a job search. The TWC web site is located at www.twc.state.tx.us. Many City-County health and human service departments also sponsor summer youth employment programs with work opportunities in city departments throughout the community. The camp directory includes programs that provide the opportunity for summer work experience and skills for independent living. Recruitment for these programs may begin as early as January with mandatory pre-work training and orientation classes held in the spring. For more information on paid summer work programs, contact your local DBS Transition counselor, local education service center, or the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

Regardless of whether your family chooses mosquito netting or a paycheck, the most important part of the experience is to enjoy the summer and all of the recreational, learning, and work opportunities it has to offer!

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Last Revision: September 1, 2010