The groups of children making crafts, drawing and compiling a digital scrapbook appear to be just another summer camp.
But these activities have a purpose: to help the youngsters overcome a wide variety of communication challenges.
The Sertoma-Schiefelbusch Communications Camp is supported by the Lawrence Sertoma Club and staffed by faculty and students in the speech language pathology department at Kansas University. It is in its eighth year of helping children ages 4 to 12 conquer speech and hearing issues.
“We have children who have articulation problems,” said Jane Wegner, director of the Schiefelbusch Clinic at KU and a clinical professor. “We have some who have cerebral palsy and can’t communicate verbally and use communication devices. We have children who have autism who don’t speak but use visual supports.”
Kimberly Haake, who just finished her first year in the speech language pathology graduate program, has been working with Cooper. Cooper spends a lot of time running around and singing. Haake said he had made strides.
“He loves to play. Sometimes if we finish an activity early, he wants to play duck, duck, goose,” Haake said. While Cooper used to ask her for permission, now he’s approaching his fellow campers to get them in the game. “Instead of asking me, he’s interacting with his peers more, which is awesome.”
The camp also gives Haake a chance to put her knowledge to use in a real-world setting.
“It helps us figure out how we can use our teaching strategies and help them in a setting that’s more fun and natural for them,” she said.
The Lawrence Sertoma Club donates money to help support the camp and make it affordable.
“Lawrence is a very strong Sertoma community,” said Sertoma International President Julie Hejtmanek. “This (camp is) a little bit different in that it focuses on not just hearing health, but children with all kinds of communicative issues, as well as other children who don’t have those issues.”
Wegner wants the 90 students in the camp to take away a sense of pride.
“We also hope they go back to school and say, ‘This is what I did during the summer!’” she said.
The camp wraps up on Friday.