At Kettleby Valley, we offer an integrated program for children with exceptionalities like Down Syndrome, Asperger’s and Autism. There is a tendency for people to see this as a service that we’re providing for the families of these campers. It’s true that the campers with exceptionalities benefit from taking part in camp activities throughout the summer. But no more than any other camper would benefit. I believe it’s our camp that gains the most from our integrated program.
Diversity and inclusion are part of the core values we have at camp. We want our staff and campers to be accepted for who they are. Our integrated program creates an atmosphere where campers learn to empathize with others without feeling sorry for them. Tolerance for differences within individuals is increased, not only for exceptionalities, but for everyone.
For our staff members, many see themselves entering the education field in their future. As teachers, modifying ones approach is critical to success, and working with exceptionalities requires adjustments on the fly. The level of gratification gained from making a connection with a child is directly related to the effort put forward. It is therefore no surprise that our integrated program has presented countless rewarding experiences for our staff members.
When you consider all the benefits to the camp as an organization, one could argue that providing an integrated program for campers with exceptionalities is highly selfish of us.