After a full week, I have recovered enough to blog about my week at Camp Chatterbox. To summarize my experience in one word – it was amazing. If you’re interested in the nitty gritty details, read on…
I left on a Friday morning and drove 11 hours!!! Yes, what was supposed to be a 7 hour drive took me 4 extra hours. This was because I didn’t know to expect major Friday night traffic on the Jersey Turnpike. Lesson learned. Once I finally made it to camp, I got to know my bunk mates. I shared a space with four other camp related personnel. The coolest thing about this was how immersed you were in the AAC culture. We talked about it at night before turning out the light, and brought it up first thing in the (very early) morning.
We spent Saturday and Sunday morning in training and preparing for the campers and families to arrive. That feeling of anticipation was the hardest for me. I just wanted everyone to get there. Finally, the campers arrived on Sunday afternoon and we had an awesome kick off event. Joan Bruno, camp director, planned an awesome theme – Road trip New Jersey. We started off in Hoboken with a Cake Boss themed introduction. All week we had cool New Jersey activities that culminated in the Ms. New Jersey pageant (in Atlantic City). The amount of detail and work that went into planning these activities was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. All of the families had attended the camp previously, but everyone was so welcoming and supportive. I cannot thank them enough for the kindness, patience, and acceptance I felt.
I worked with an awesome teacher and a great group of teens. Earlier this year I attended a PODD training with Gayle Porter. She said that it was important to talk to competent AAC users and boy did I meet some competent users there. I met an author, an artist/inventor, a world traveler, a budding entrepreneur, and a number of other great people. All individuals who use AAC. I left with many new friends and lots of connections.
In summary, camp was a lot of work. I was exhausted and spent most of last week trying to catch up on sleep (while starting a new school year). It was worth it. I had an incredible experience. I can’t even describe the feeling of being totally immersed in an AAC world. The number one lesson I learned was to SHUT UP! Just stop talking and let things happen. Good advice for anyone.