It’s been awhile since the first and only blog post. There’s been lots to consider in how to make what I know will been a good camp and what resources are needed to make it happen.
For this year, the UK AAC Camp I’d hoped for still remains a dream. While there’s loads of enthusiasm and expertise, the key resource that’s needed to make the camp I envisioned is money and we don’t have any. Yet.
And having money would be really useful. Zip lines and horseback riding activities are memorable. Friends coming back to camp every year builds a community. It would be great to have that to look forward to every summer. But as I consider what we could do with very little money, it makes me think about what the campers would be doing the other fifty-one weeks of the year after the camp. That gives me pause. AAC Camp would be a great week but what do campers do the rest of the year? How would they share their camp experience and maintain those friendships?
Of course, we could sort all those questions out after having an incredible camp- I mean, what a problem to have, right? - but with considerably less money we could start to work on those issues right now. The big focus of AAC is face to face communication but technology and the way society communicates has evolved so much that non face to face communication happens just as much as communication with people in the same room. Moreover, if a person has transportation challenges, the non face to face could potentially be the greater unmet need.
How do we fix this? Well, there’s no money but this unmet need doesn’t require much money. It requires a focus on non face to face communication and as PWUAAC are exposed to software updates and system bugs, it will be sensible to offer three ways to connect to the outside world. That way if one system fails, they can raise the alarm with one of the remaining ones. I’ve found email to be the most reliable but I expect some form of social media -Twitter, SnapChat, Facebook or Instagram- to have a place. Finally, phone or video interface could be another way to connect.
I asked earlier: What would campers do the rest of the year? Leisure activities are another unmet need. These devices can manage a calendar, control the telly, surf the web, read a book... it’s a long list and one thing I’ve found when working with teenagers-they don’t necessarily want to talk to you! But give them access to the music library and they are interested in coming to therapy. We need to improve access to the leisure activities that VOCAs make possible. It would be great to keep everyone occupied for a week but what if they could entertain themselves every evening, weekend and holiday break? Again, it would take an investment of time, training and expertise but not loads of money. It could also draw in our friends from Assistive Technology and Occupational Therapy.
My final camp hurdle is again money related-I don’t have any for admin- from safeguarding to permission forms it’s going to take a massive amount of time. So my solution is to start local, within our current resource to offer a service development to the local caseload of 14-25 year olds who use AAC. These young people will be identified by the therapists working in the three boroughs that our organisation covers. The offer will be a three day non residential 'camp' at the end of July. Campers will be asked what email/ social media (remote or non face to face communication) platforms and tech based leisure activities they want to focus on. Richard Cloudesley School have generously granted us use of their school and we’re going to use it to create some ‘Crystal Maze’ activities adapted for remote communication as well as some sessions on developing the leisure activities that the campers want to access (eg DJing, gaming). I’m sure we’ll learn plenty from the experience which can be applied when we run it again for the next set of campers.
In order to get the funds for the camp we want, we need to show what we can do without much funding at all. If we bundle the non face to face and the leisure activities in to an alternative camp, call it “Camplify” as in ‘a camp that amplifies the use of VOCAs’. Well, I think Camplify is the best way forward. Once we show what can be achieved within current resource, we can approach other organisations to show what kind of camp could be possible with more.
So, we are now putting a Camplify application form to send out to potential camper on local caseloads. We’re still looking at how we can bring this to everyone in the UK and I expect to meet interested partners at some point this year. Some professionals may want to come to Camplify and I’d really like to see that but I’ll need look at interest and capacity. Please contact me if you’re one of those professionals.
Thanks for your patience-we will get there!