Take 2: Teaching Children w/ Autism Washington, DC

by Take 2: An Innovative Program for Social Learning
Vetted

To continue reflecting upon the challenges and triumphs experienced by our Take2 campers, I’d like to share a story from this summer’s middle school camp teacher, Laura H.:

    We had just completed our “flexibility” week with the kids, and while we knew one another better than we did at the beginning of the week, everyone was still working on building relationships. This particular excursion was decided by the staff but planned by the campers, so it was already a bit of a challenge in the sense that we weren’t entirely sure if they would be motivated to tough out any obstacles presented by this excursion. Armed with a map and a plan for the trip, we set out to take the bus to a local park to play field games and have lunch. The group seemed to be in high spirits as they left the building.

    The journey began with a short wait for the bus—the leader of the group checked the times and noticed that a bus would arrive in minutes—and the campers readily embarked. Unfortunately, the campers didn’t realize that they were going in the wrong direction. We knew, but they didn’t. With a little prompting to verify the direction, the camper checked in with the bus driver, who informed him of the error. The group’s first flexible moment rested in their decision to adapt the course and take a detour suggested by the bus driver.

    Despite keeping cool (metaphorically—outside, it was a hot day), each challenge sort of compounded those before it: not having exact directions for the detour, mistakenly leading the group to a neighborhood block, lots of walking in the heat, challenges with different opinions from the campers, not knowing one another for more than a week.

    We continued praising them for thinking flexibly and going with the flow. We knew they were frustrated, but we also recognized how many victories were happening in this one trip. So we continued to support them, and suddenly, an oasis of sorts emerged. It wasn’t beautiful, but it would work: a flat, green space near an overpass with a small pavilion, and the only shade that could be found in DC. One camper said, “Why don’t we just settle on this place instead?” It was a long shot to get 9 other campers to agree to this, but they did. They all agreed!

    Just when we thought it couldn’t get any better, instead of playing ‘dead’ on the grass, the campers initiated a vote, which led them to play a kickball game that didn’t require teams—just a rotating pitcher and a line of kickers. They used some of the materials we had brought as makeshift bases. It was a very proud moment for all of us, and you could tell that the campers felt successful too. Halfway through the game, I heard the pitcher shout to his fellow campers, “This is so much fun, isn’t it?” The whole experience was a victory that I think will stick with the kids as much as it will with us.

 

Thank you for your continued support of Take2 Camp.

Sincerely,

Callie

 

Teaching a camper to play checkers
Teaching a camper to play checkers

Our last day at Take2 was an emotional roller coaster--a swirling culmination of all of the thought, energy, hurdles and fun from the past month.  One minute, we were freeze-dancing and grilling hot dogs, and the next minute, we were bidding farewell to the people who enriched our lives, quickly swapping "good-bye" with "see you soon" instead.  

Halfway through our last day, a camper approached me in the quiet hallway to make a comment about his experience:  "This is the only camp where I have made friends."  It was unsolicited and unrehearsed.  At Take2, we teach our campers about the unexpected, usually in reference to behavior that is asynchronous with the social surroundings. But in this moment, "wonderfully unexpected" was the most fitting way for me to describe this camper's remark.  As the muffled sound of pop music, laughter and organized chaos drifted through the classroom doors, I reassured him: "The friendships don't have to end today."

So many small moments with staff and fellow campers precipitated this big one:  Early morning staff meetings to stage a conversation group; learning about "cool thought" scripts to think positively; creating socially-based goals and plans; coaching campers to self-advocate during game play; allowing a camper to write a "No Thank You" note to vent frustration; cheering on teammates at a daunting ropes course.  All the small moments come together before our eyes, sometimes without even realizing it, until one day a camper bravely steps out to say, "Thank you" in his own unique, beautiful way.  

These small moments are made from the fibers of your support.  As we bid farewell to another wonderful Take2 summer, I ask that you take credit for making this possible.  Thank you to all the incredible people, young and old, who have given to Take2 in charity, volunteerism and bravery.  

Fondly,

Callie 

Improv with the Middle School Camp
Improv with the Middle School Camp
Hedbanz with Counselors
Hedbanz with Counselors
Selfie at Ben
Selfie at Ben's Chili Bowl!

Last week, I spoke with a parent inquiring about Take2 who exclaimed, "We need a Take2 in every state!"  It made me reflect on the growth of Take2 and our community.  

We grow our curricula, which are painstakingly revised and reviewed every year to keep lessons and activities new and up-to-date with the latest research on social instruction.

Last year, we extended our service to accommodate older campers so that middle school-aged children are able to experience the rewarding and lasting friendships that their younger counterparts have enjoyed for 12 years.  

We have broadened our geographical reach to campers who travel from places like California, New York, Japan, Canada and Hawaii to attend Take2 in DC.

Thanks to your contributions to our growth, we are able to reach families who would otherwise be unable to send their child to camp.  Your donations allow us to nurture the friendships and social success of those who benefit from it the most!

Today, Global Giving will be matching any donation up to $1000 received from 9:01am-11:59pm EST.  Any size makes an impact!

Thank you for your support, and for continuing to make our vision a reality.

Sincerely, 

Callie 



Links:

In preparation for the trip
In preparation for the trip

This is certainly a first: I can say with confidence that I have never had a curriculum meeting at a hardware store before! 

The Take2 staff has done an exceptional job of envisioning activities for camp that target the same research-based principles in a fun, new way.  Most of them have been created and implemented.  Some of them, however, were at once wonderful and cost prohibitive.  This year, we decided to throw out the catalog, take matters into our own hands, and prepare for a very hands-on season of curriculum planning.  

What could we possibly be creating with raw materials like a tarp, lumber, and pvc pipe?  You'll have to check the next report to find out!  Until then, these previews will have to do:   

  • Talk tower - a pair of campers "blindly" bring a large tower to life by following only verbal instructions from one partner.
  • Blue Lagoon - a cooperative learning game in which many campers handle "the blue lagoon" together to reach a shared goal.
  • Hungry hungry humans - You may have seen this one on pinterest.  Campers will practice playing the "friendship game" with this 'activity time' game that resembles Hungry Hungry Hippos.

Several weeks from now, our wonderful staff will come together to build these curriculum activities for the Take2 community.  You, our dutiful supporters, provide us with the tools necessary to create a fun and inventive social learning environment; we cannot wait to reveal our progress.  Thank you for your continued dedication and support, which allows us to further our mission of helping children in our community with social learning needs. 

To track our progress and stay informed about Take2, you can also "like" us on our new facebook page! www.facebook.com/take2camp

Gratefully, 


Callie 

If you could remove one holiday stressor that you’re experiencing, what would it be?

Many of the adults to whom we posed this question reported that things like shopping, keeping to a tight schedule, trekking kids on errands and angry drivers were all major sources of stress.  These adults just wished that they could “skip to the good part and socialize with family and friends.”

But what if socializing with loved ones triggered our stress the most?

This is often the challenge for children with autism and other social learning disorders.  Finding respite among a flurry of changes in routine, new faces, unexpected events and high social demands is so difficult for our campers and can make their holiday season almost unbearable.  Take2 recognizes that the reality for many of its campers is that the 'social stressor' is actually present year-round, and we work hard to teach our campers how to feel confident and competent in the social world by practicing skills such as starting and maintaining a conversation, and teaching strategies like creating a 'plan B' to manage stress in the moment.  And of course, we practice gift giving and receiving, so fruitcakes are no longer a disappointment, but rather, a great substitute for birdseed (plan B)!

Knowing that our campers leave equipped with an arsenal of skills and a sense of mastery over the social challenges that the holidays bring is what makes our hearts grow three sizes.  As 2014 comes to a close, we remind you what an incredible gift your donation is to our campers and their families.  Subsidized tuition allows many more children struggling to make social connections learn how to access their family and peers in a way they were once unable to----not just during the season, but also year-round. 

To our donors, past present and future, we thank you for your support and are honored to be the recipients of your incredible charity.  

Wishing you the happiest of holidays and a New Year abundant with all of the things that make your hearts grow,

Callie

 

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Organization Information

Take 2: An Innovative Program for Social Learning

Location: Alexandria, VA - USA
Website: http:/​/​www.take2camp.org/​
Project Leader:
Lisa Greenman
Washington, DC United States

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