By Jerilyn Leece, MOTR/Licensed
When Lisa Sommers, certified occupational therapy assistant (COTA), was first interviewed for her position at Intermountain, she was asked the question “What is your dream for this department?” Having been a COTA working for the school district for the previous 15 years, Lisa had been saddened by the fact that many of the children that she served were unable to participate in summer camps because of their particular disability (physical or emotional), or their family’s ability to pay for expensive summer camps.
Fast forward 4 years and Lisa’s dream is now become a reality. July 12 marked the end of Intermountain Occupational Therapy Department’s second annual Motor Skills Camp. With the assistance of students from Carroll College, staff volunteers from throughout the Intermountain organization, and teenaged children of Intermountain staff, the Occupational Therapy Department staff (Jerilyn Lecce MOTR/L, Michaela Parker MOTR/L, Lisa Sommers COTA/L, and Rebecca Davidson COTA/L) was able to provide a summer camp experience for children from throughout the Helena area who might otherwise not have been able to successfully participate in a “summer camp.”
This year, 38 children, many of whom live with the challenges of emotional disorders, ataxia, Down Syndrome, sensory processing disorders, ADHD, social deficits, and/or autism spectrum disorder (along with their non-disabled peers) participated in various fun and engaging activities that assist with the development of gross motor and fine motor skills, social thinking, sensory processing, and self-regulation while having fun and making new friends. Because occupational therapists have been trained to modify and adapt activities to provide the “just right challenge” to individuals, children with a variety of skill levels and behavioral issues were able to successfully participate and learn at their own levels of functioning.
Thanks to the generous contributions of Pacific Source and The Woman’s Auxiliary (as well as a third donor who wishes to remain anonymous), children were not excluded from participating based on their ability to pay camp fees. With the financial assistance provided, the campers were able to participate in 4 days of camp, for 3 hours per day (including a morning session for children aged 5-8 and an afternoon session for ages 9+), for a total fee of only $25 per child.
Each day of camp focused on a different theme. The first day of camp was “Sensory day.” The kids had fun making slime, making sensory squish bags, and participating in motor obstacle course activities. The second day of camp was “Star Wars Day.” Some of the activities the kids participated in included: vestibular “flight training” activities, light saber training for motor skill development, and design your own droid for fine motor development. The third day was “Superflex Day.” The kids learned about a social thinking Superhero, Superflex, that helps to defeat the Team of Unthinkables (who are characters who make people say and do things that show that they are not thinking about others). By learning and using their own super-flexible strategies, they too were able to defeat their own teams of Unthinkables. The final day, “Nature and Water Day” included a nature hike, mud-pie making, and fun water play activities. As the week drew to a close, many of the children expressed regret that camp was ending and “wished they could have OT camp every day.” We, the OT’s and volunteers, although happy with the success of the camp and the many individual successes of the individual campers, were exhausted and ready for a much needed weekend break. That night, as we reflected on the successes and funny incidences that occurred throughout the week, we couldn’t help but talk about plans for next year’s camp.
The OT department would like to say a special “thank you” to the donors for helping us keep the cost of the camp affordable for the children and their families, the volunteers for your much-needed help, Intermountain Residential campus staff for use of your wonderful facilities, Kristine Mosby for her administrative support, and Steffani Turner for helping this camp become a reality.
Jerilyn Lecce is an occupational therapist who has worked at Intermountain for the past 6 months. She has been an occupational therapist for 16 years graduating with her OT Master’s degree from Texas Woman’s University in 2002. She received her undergraduate degree from Montana State University in Health and Human Development with an emphasis in Exercise & Wellness.