Produced By: Kanale Rhoden
Online Version: Kanale Rhoden
Posted: July 8, 2016
These powerful words are how parents describe Camp Candoo, a two week "intensive speech therapy and early literacy summer camp for children ages 4-8 with childhood Apraxia of speech” held at the WSU Spokane campus.
Camp Candoo started four years ago under the direction of Dr. Nancy Potter, Associate Professor and Dr. Amy Meredith, Clinical Professor, at Washington State University Spokane.
"The first year we didn’t decide until about April, and we had the camp in June. We had mostly local kids and had a single session in the morning," Potter says. The program has been a success. With its fourth year underway this summer, Camp Candoo developed a second session, last year to deal with the high demand of applicants. Younger children in the morning, followed by older children in the afternoon.
Due to its success, Camp Candoo has received hundreds of applications each year. The challenge for Potter and Meredith is narrowing down the applicants; it’s hard to say no. "Dr. Meredith and I go through the videos and try to find a very narrow slice of children that would benefit," says Potter. They have to have " the maturity to handle a lot of adjustments and really hard work. So we can’t be everything for everyone, so we try to be something for somebody."
"This is our third year here; we’re the veterans they keep calling us," says Taunya Barnett whose son Blake, six years old, has very severe Apraxia. "[Our] very first year here, he was just kind of working beginning sounds. He just kind of blew us away the sounds he could actually do," says Barnett. Blake's energetic attitude keeps his progression climbing through the roof, and he is now able to say words and correct sounds.
But Camp Candoo is not only a place for kids to get help with their Apraxia, it's also a place where parents can meet other parents who are experiencing the same things. A place where they are given tools to help their kids when they return home. Parents spend up to three hours together, un-facilitated for the most part, watching their children through a one-way mirror go through the activities of the day: arts and crafts, snack time and play time. Not only are they watching their kids participate in this intense speech therapy, they're picking each other’s brain about how to navigate this world of Apraxia successfully. They share stories about what works for them, and how their Speech Language Pathologist (SLP) at home works with their children. As well as the little things, like what’s for dinner. A camaraderie is formed among the families whose children share the same challenges. "Every year, I walk away with a new vision of what I want for next year from my son," says Barnett.
Camp Director, Dr. Amy Meredith, loves that the parents spend quality time with each other. She knows for most of the families that attend camp, it's a tough road to get here. "Camp is basically $900, which sounds like a lot of money, and it is, but if a kid was to get private speech therapy one on one, each session would be well over $100," says Meredith.
Time and time again, parents say it’s worth it, and they'd do it again in a heartbeat. Where many of them are from, this kind of help isn't available. Meredith told us, “if there are folks who are going to be inspired by this and want to help sponsor campers that come, that would be great!"