News and Notes from The Johnson Center

Sib Camp Summer 2013

JCCHD | Thu, July 25, 2013 | [Community][Events][Sibling Spotlight]

Sib Camp 2013Sib Camp 2013

The Johnson Center wrapped up our summer SibCamp last week. The camp was led by our staff psychologist, Dr. Claire Schutte, and certified child life specialist, Jeanna Martinez. A couple of our campers were children who had so much fun in our fall group that they returned for summer camp! Participants included siblings ages 8-10 years old. The camp was one week long, with a focus on integrating specific therapeutic topics into fun recreation activities. These included developing an understanding of autism, family and peers issues, coping skills, and identifying and expressing emotions.

Our campers enjoyed getting to meet other siblings who “get it.” They connected with one another and shared experiences that they came to realize they all had in common. Camp leaders helped the children come up with strategies to address specific concerns regarding both family and peer issues. Role-playing was one fun way we learned to practice communicating and navigating challenging situations. The children also participated in an advice column in which they were able to answer questions from other siblings of children with autism. The kids came up with excellent responses, integrating things they had learned throughout the week.

As part of discovering fun family activities they could take home from camp, the children enjoyed cooking with the group. Recognizing that many families have dietary restrictions or challenges during meal times that may be hard on siblings, this activity was an example of how to approach family/meal time in a positive way. It was a great experience that showed siblings how they can make a tasty snack using allergy-friendly ingredients and a whole lot of fun—it was such a hit that we had several requests to repeat it throughout the week!

We also worked on healthy ways to release frustration and stress. Deep breathing exercises were practiced; campers designed and created their own pinwheels and practiced blowing the wheels during stressful events. One camper wrote reminders on her pinwheel to express how much her family cares for her. Others wrote encouraging words that make them feel better during challenging times. A group yoga exercise showed campers how to release stress with stretching and breathing. All of our “downward dogs” were looking good! These strategies were meant to encourage siblings to find simple and enjoyable ways to let go of any frustrations.

Campers really connected with one another and talked a lot about how grateful they were for the friendships they made while attending camp. They took home friendship bracelets that they made, and promised to write letters to one another, vowing to stay in touch. The camp was an amazing experience for everyone, including our staff, and we were grateful to play a part in building stronger children and stronger families.