Child development centre makes difference for kids with disabilities with summer camp

Hosted by the Fraser Valley Child Development Centre, the camp helps kids learn through play

Although it’s wrapped up for another year, those involved in this year’s Fraser Valley Child Development Centre’s (FVCDC) day camp for kids say they will be revelling in the benefits for some time.

Started around 14 years ago, the day camp has evolved over the years to become not only a multi-disciplinary, hands-on learning activity for professional therapists, but a chance for special needs children to connect with their peers and enjoy the wonders of learning through play.

“Every kid deserves to go to summer camp,” said Kim Cox, a physical therapist with the FVCDC who’s been involved in the camp for several years. “(This) camp’s the greatest thing—I can’t say enough good things about it. It affects everyone who’s involved in positive ways.”

Focused on primary-aged children, the day camp ran from Monday to Friday at the Rosedale Traditional School from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. With about a dozen children enrolled from the Hope, Agassiz, and Chilliwack area, the camp not only provided them with two hours of one-on-one therapy each day, but endless hours of enjoyable crafts, sports, and various activities.

The children in attendance are all “challenged in one or more areas,” explained Cox. “That’s either physical, cognitive, or emotional. But they (also) have a wide variety of skills they’re building upon through play … and here they can connect, have fun, and build upon their strengths.”

This was Carter Perry’s first year at the FVCDC Summer Camp, and when asked if he enjoyed the experience, the young boy smiled ear-to-ear.

Using a cellphone equipped with a special speech program, Perry selects images that are converted to speech to describe some of his favourite parts of the week-long experience: “(Playing) Queen’s Court,” says the device for the smiling 11-year-old.

Another favourite activity was using the motorized wheelchair, adds Perry, because he enjoyed going fast.

“The kids all have a great range of abilities,” said Mike VanderGaag, a UFV kinesiology student who spent the week working at the camp.

“We really got to see a lot of progression in these kids, even through just this one week,” said VanderGaag.

“People with disabilities are a lot brighter than they get credit for,” he continued. “We can learn more from them than we can teach. They can do and understand more than people think they do.”

The FVCDC is a non-profit organization that’s dedicated to the well-being of children and families through evidence-based child development programs.

“Early intervention is key,” said Cox about the FVCDC’s programs. And if the FVCDC can’t provide a program for the child or family, Cox says they’ll do their very best to either plug the family into the programs, or point them in the direction that will be most helpful.

“We support families who have concerns about their child’s development, whatever and however that may be.”

And while the summer camp uses a lot manpower and resources, Cox says it’s all worth it in the end.

“This is the best week of the year,” said the physiotherapist. “And it really goes full-circle, we see it benefiting everyone involved: the volunteers, the children, their families, and the therapists.

“It takes a village to raise a child, (or) a group effort to lead a camp like this, and I think we’ve got it all,” Cox added.

For more information about the Fraser Valley Child Development Centre, please visit their website at www.FVCDC.org.

(Slideshow created and submitted by Callie Pimm.)


@SarahGawdin
Sarah.Gawdin@theprogress.com

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