Thanks to APH FamilyConnect’s sponsorship, children who are blind or have low vision in Indiana from birth through age 18 have the chance to attend the first-ever O&M Adventure Summer Camp! The camp is being offered in two-hour sessions over the course of three weeks in Indianapolis.
The camp is the brainchild of Mindy Koehne, a Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments (TVI) and Orientation & Mobility (O&M) intern, who was looking for a way to earn her internship hours. She joined forces with Tommie Roesch, a TVI and Certified O&M Specialist (COMS); the duo created a camp to help kids develop their O&M skills while simultaneously having fun adventures!
“I’ll be learning from the kids just as much as they’ll be learning from me,” Mindy says.
Hosted at the VIPS (Visually Impaired Preschool Services) Family Resource Center in Indianapolis, the camp will be divided into age groups: birth through 3 years old, ages 4-7, ages 8-12 and ages 13-18.
Fun learning for all ages
The birth through 3-year-old group will be learning pre-cane skills such as using “safety hands” (an informal term for protective hands), trailing a wall, and navigating an unfamiliar environment –skills that can be developed at an early age. Parents are required to attend with the birth through 3 age group, and for good reason—the O&M instructors will be coaching parents on instructional activities.
“We want to make sure we educate parents on what they can do with their children, because family members spend the most time with their [young learners],” Mindy says. “We can help parents build foundational skills that will benefit both the child and the family.”
Parents of youth in the older age groups simply drop their children off for sessions. Each group will engage in activities appropriate to their ages and current O&M skills. For example, if the child has received minimal O&M instruction, the counselors will start with introductory concepts and skills.
Mindy and Tommie are also incorporating additional components of the Expanded Core Curriculum (ECC) into the camp; they have planned activities to help campers learn competencies such as independent living skills.
Mindy shares a few of the interactive, motivating happenings: “The children will [participate in] hands-on activities like planting flowers,” Mindy says. “And [we’ll make] food each time they come—everybody likes to eat!”
Advanced activities for older kids
The two older age groups will leave the VIPS office and work on travel skills such catching a bus, going to the mall to buy ice cream, and shopping at the grocery store. There will also be scavenger hunts such as looking for items to build their “pizza garden”, from which they’ll make their own pizzas, and large-group activities such as learning how a restaurant is structured, how to place an order, and how to ask for help if needed.
On the final day of camp, the older teens will participate in a variation of Cane Quest. They’ll build a mini cane using a dowel rod, tape, and string that they can take home.
In the event of inclement weather, Mindy and Tommie have alternative indoor activities planned to keep campers busy.
Choose your own adventure
The camp is divided into three weeks, and kids can attend all three two-hour sessions – or one or two. No matter how many sessions they attend, campers will learn valuable skills and participate in engaging activities.
Time slots are available on Monday or Saturday each week: July 11 or 16, July 18 or 30, and August 1 or 6. Families choose one of the two days each week they want to attend, and the two-hour sessions begin at 9 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 3 p.m., and 5:30 p.m., moving from the youngest to the oldest age groups. Although there’s a cap on the number of children that can attend each session, some campers won’t attend all three weeks which will create openings for others.
There is no cost to attend the camp, and families traveling more than 25 miles will receive a small travel stipend. Additionally, all campers will receive a free T-shirt.
“This is all thanks to the generous donation of APH FamilyConnect, which really helped us take the camp to a new level,” Mindy says.
Do you think the camp will be a good fit for your child? Campers are already starting to enroll – so don’t wait! You can register online here. Registrations must be received by May 16.