Sarah, Special Needs Counsellor
By Camp America on 12/01/2016
As a ‘ready to go’ applicant, when I received an offer from a camp specialising in Non- Verbal learning difficulties, Autism spectrum disorders and Asperbergers- I was unsure as to whether this was the camp for me...
As a ‘ready to go’ applicant, when I received an offer from a camp specialising in Non- Verbal learning difficulties, Autism spectrum disorders and Asperbergers- I was unsure as to whether this was the camp for me. I had very minimal knowledge of any of these disorders, and I didn’t know if I was qualified enough to provide the best service to these children and their families. After asking family and friends of what they thought I should do (they told me to just go for it) I arranged my interview. You’ll find that the interview is really useful, I was able to ask as many questions as I could think of about the behavioural difficulties I would be working with, and Kevin, my recruiter, was very open and frank, but his advice helped to get rid of the doubts I did have.
After spending my first summer at a ‘Special Needs Camp’ I cannot recommend this enough! The job requires patience and flexibility but this was easily the most rewarding job I have ever had. Working with children with special needs will involve you learning a lot about yourself, especially about your resilience. Special needs camps provide high quality training during your induction week, and the senior staff are all experts on the particular disorder, with many working in specialist schools the year round. The camp I worked at had even been included in a Harvard Journal for the progress they make with our campers. You will also find that your fellow general staff and counsellors are some of the more caring people you will ever meet and work with, and their support is vital for those days when a camper or bunk might be having a particularly bad day.
Finally, and most importantly the campers! My campers were so diverse within the one bunk. You will become the most important person to them at camp, the person who they come to when they are feeling overwhelmed, or have an issue. There was a huge emphasis on the fact that the majority of these kids are bullied on a day-to-day basis, with camp being their safe place once a year- as a result every day provides an opportunity for you to ensure that your campers had the best day, with the camp directors providing a lot of flexibility for the tasks and activities we would design. A final great thing is that, whilst at a regular camp, counsellors, special needs campers are responsible for a much smaller cohort, with myself being responsible for 2 campers. This enables you to build a relationship with your campers which by the end of camp will really become evident when you reflect on the progress, and how far your camper has come in the several weeks, and the role that you played in that sometimes difficult process!