Kennebec County camp provides unique opportunity for non-verbal campers and their families

Published: Jul. 5, 2018 at 7:18 PM EDT
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Linda Bonnar, Director of Communication Pathways at Pine Tree Society said, "Everybody has the right to communicate. Their devices allow them to be empowered to advocate for themselves and get their wants and needs met."

Pine Tree Camp's Camp Communicate is offering a unique experience to campers who are non-verbal and use technology to communicate.

Bonnar said, "We give them a one-on-one facilitator so that they can become savvier with their devices. They can learn their vocabulary, know how to use it in all kinds of different opportunities."

"What's your favorite thing about camp?"

Kaylie Parker said, "Boat"

Meet Camper Kaylie Parker.

Kaylie said, "I am 15 Years old."

She's attended Pine Tree Camp for seven years now, all with her parent’s right beside her.

Kaylie’s father, Wayne Parker said, "It's great. It really helps her because she sees other kids use their speech device, sees her peers using their speech device."

Kaylie's parents said her tablet has helped her speak volumes.

Wayne said, "It was very exciting when she first started using the device. It helps us because it's frustrating for us sometimes when, you know, your daughter has needs and wants that you don't know what it is she wants."

The device gives Kaylie independence-something the camp highlights over the five-day program.

Bonnar said, "By allowing them to have something that can get their wants and needs met in an efficient and effective manner, we empower their independence, and we allow them to be a part of the world just like everybody else."

And for parents, the camp provides them with resources.

Wayne and Kathleen Parker said, "They have other speech therapists who come in here and help us and give us, you know, they have learning sessions on examples of how to help Kaylie use her device which has been very helpful and what's going to happen as the steps go as they get older."

Staffers said they want their campers to know they'll always be heard no matter what form of communication.

Staffer Amber said, “There are people who are listening and want people to know that they have to say and want them to communicate in their way rather than our way."

Bonnar said, "We have a passion for it. We love our families. We love the kids and for us, it’s as rewarding as t is for everyone else.”