Learning – Visualizing – Planning – Connecting – Reflecting
At Camp Alsing we embrace our campers for who they are and empower them in a fun, supportive environment. We foster personal and social growth through a variety of activities and guidance from specially-trained staff. We provide campers with the tools to confidently solve problems more independently, and experience new places and people less encumbered by the anxiety that clouds thinking and inhibits new experiences.
We recognize that social cognition develops more through repeated experiences rather than rote behavior guidance and cueing. Our staff acts as guides who help role model and reinforce core strategies that can be used across settings and for a lifetime. We are able to take the time to work with campers so they understand and practice cognitive strategies, thereby gaining confidence and friends in the process. Our clinical program is influenced by the Social Thinking® approach of Michelle Garcia Winner, MA CCC-SLP, the 360 Thinking Model of Executive Function Skills of Sarah Ward, MS CCC-SLP, and anxiety management strategies taught by Lynn Lyons, LICSW.
Activities to Build Understanding and Connection
Every morning campers meet with their GOF (“Group of a Feather”) for Morning Huddle, a time to go over the plan for the day. The group walks through the schedule, working together to visualize each activity – a key step in managing expectations, building flexibility, and planning for the inevitable changes that can derail a plan. During Morning Huddle, the group may also discuss important skills to help with social cognition, executive functioning, and anxiety management at camp, including:
- Visualizing the steps of an activity prior to participating
- Mentally rehearsing getting ready for the day
- Talking about what it means to be part of a group at camp, how to share space with others, and how and why we all follow the group plan
- Anticipating potential hiccups throughout the day and preparing to use flexible thinking and flexible problem solving
After dinner, the GOF meets again for Evening Huddle, which is a time to reflect on the day. Campers may share their highs and lows of the day with the group, reflect on moments they are proud of, or take the time to share kind thoughts and affirmations with their group members. Inevitably there are challenging moments and situations at camp, and this time might also be used to discuss a conflict within the group, to help build perspective of each other’s thoughts and feelings. The goal of the Evening Huddle is to look back on the day as a whole, process the day’s events, and connect with others while doing so.
Our specially-trained staff adapt the content of the Huddles to meet the unique needs of each group. Throughout their time at camp, our campers build a toolbox of skills and coping strategies they use in real time to improve their social executive functioning, increase resilience, and decrease the anxiety associated with novel experiences. These concepts are modified according to each camper’s current skill level to allow for carryover during the day. Our focus is catching those organic, teachable moments throughout the day to improve self-confidence and social awareness to make connections with other campers.
Challenge By Choice
By design, any summer camp is the perfect opportunity to create connections, if a child has the support and understanding of the community around them. At Alsing, our team is intentional about using the everyday activities we offer (arts/crafts, athletics, theater/drama, swimming) to offer opportunities for connections with others and to safely extend campers’ comfort zones – what is commonly referred to as ‘challenge by choice.’ Some of our campers love to be the first in the water or up on stage, while others need more time and encouragement to try something for the first time.
For example, when campers experience the thrill of swimming in a Maine lake for the first time, some may be hesitant about the unknown. With the help of their counselor, success can be recognized as the steps they take in trying something new, and not necessarily getting it right on the first try. Later, during a quiet period, there is the chance to reflect with the staff and put the day’s events in perspective, allowing the campers to ‘re-experience’ and solidify the success they felt during the day. In this way, campers have tremendous fun, try new things and enjoy positive peer relationships, all within a supportive framework that fosters their growth.
A Lasting Effect
One of the goals of Camp Alsing’s program is giving your child new skills that they can use away from camp, and to return home filled with memories and friendships that they find nowhere else. Because of the time we take to know each camper, we are better able to guide and teach them according to who they are. Camp Alsing is a treasured community that campers return to each year and provides a source of confidence, strength and skills.
We reinforce this community in the “off-season” with periodic camper events online that help remind campers of the joy and community they have at camp, and to support them in maintaining connections with their friends from Alsing.
Communication Throughout the Camp Experience
During camp you will receive an update providing information on your child’s accomplishments, challenges, and growth. After camp, you will receive a report describing your child’s camp experience, highlighting useful strategies, and offering suggestions for continued skill development at home. Our relationship with families is not seasonal, and our director, Emily, is always available by phone or email to provide perspective on your camper’s experience.