Learn and Teach Project “Volunteering at Autism Camp” Josh Dickenson-5
Volunteerism • (noun): “The policy or practice of volunteering one’s time or talents for charitable, educational or other worthwhile activities in one’s community.” • For the past 2 summers, I have been a volunteer at Unit 5’s Autism Summer Camp, in the 1st-2nd grade and 3rd-4th grade classrooms.
What is Autism? • Developmental disability • Result of a neurological disorder • Often appears in the first 2 years of life • Impacts development in the areas of: • Communication • Social Interaction • One of the disabilities on the Autism Spectrum • There is no known cause and it is a lifelong disability.
The Autism Spectrum • There are 5 disabilities on the Autism Spectrum: • Autism • Asperger’s Syndrome • Rett’s Disorder • Pervasive Developmental Disorder, not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) • Childhood Disintegrative Disorder
Facts About Autism • More common in boys than girls (4:1) • 1:100 children diagnosed with ASD • Often show repetitive behaviors (flapping hands, spinning, jumping, etc.) • Often have “passions” or “obsessions (trains, buses, politics, Spongebob, movies, etc.) • Increase in anxiety • Difficulties in verbal and non-verbal communication • Often show lack of eye contact • Difficulty engaging in leisure activities with others • Hypersensitivity to sensory stimuli (noise, smells, etc)
Why did I volunteer? • My parents had been teachers at camp for 5 years. • I started going with my mom in 2004 • I first volunteered in 2008 because teachers needed extra people in the classroom
What did I do? • Helped with work in groups and individually. • Made sure everyone was doing what they were supposed to. • Made sure everyone was comfortable. • Supervised in the gym and on the playground. • Helped on field trips. • Got kids ready in the morning and ready to leave in the afternoon.
What did I learn? • The kids aren’t that different than nondisabled kids. • I thought it would be hard, but it turned out to be a lot easier than I thought. • You learn how to work with the kids “as you go”. • I learned that I worked really well with the kids in my classes. • I learned that it is a fun way to spend my summer. • It is personally rewarding knowing I’m helping someone else.
Who benefits from Volunteering? • NOT just the students • Classroom teachers benefit • Parents of the students benefit • The volunteers benefit
Classroom Teachers • I asked the classroom teachers the following 3 questions: • What kinds of things did your classroom volunteers help you with? • What are the benefits of having volunteers in your classroom at Autism Camp? 3. What limitations would you have in your classroom without volunteers?
What did your volunteers do to help? • Monitored students who wander off • Help engage students in activities • Provide breaks for students due to sensory needs • Supervised games and group activities • Supervised during cooking activities • Supervised on field trips/community trips • Participated in games with students
Benefits of having volunteers • Extremely helpful due to large number of students • Provide additional supervision • Provide opportunities to travel in the community • Allows our class to do more than we would be able to do without them (trips, activities, etc) • Peace of mind of knowing the kids are well-taken care of and supervised
Limitations without Volunteers • Fewer activities would be provided due to supervision • Community trips would be nearly impossible • Classroom activities would be limited due to possible behaviors of students • “Meltdowns” would increase as students reacted to behaviors of other students • Small group activities would be limited as more direct supervision of the class would be required
Parents of the Students • I asked parents the following 3 questions: • When are some times your child has worked with volunteers? • What types of activities did the volunteers do with your child? 3. How have volunteers positively impacted your child?
When has your child worked with volunteers? • Summer Camp • ISU • IWU • Parks and Rec. volunteers • Autism Social Group • Child Care settings
What types of activities did volunteers do with your child? • Helping with Summer Camp activities. • Taking them to events • Socializing with them • Recreational activities • Buddy activities • Community events • Volunteering at the animal shelter
How have volunteers positively impacted your child? • Improved ability to tolerate new people. • Providing support and time. • Building friendships • Building self-esteem • Learned teamwork
Volunteers • I asked volunteers the following 6 questions: • How many years have you volunteered at autism camp? • If you come back every summer, why? • Why are you willing to give up most of your summer volunteering at camp? • What do you like about volunteering at camp? • What have you learned from volunteering at camp? • Describe your favorite experience from camp.
How many years have you volunteered at camp? • 2 • 1 • 1 • 5 • 2
If you come back every summer, why? • I want to go into special education, and I love the kids. They brighten up my day! • It has taught me so much and helped me with my own family member who needs help. • I had a great experience at camp last summer. • I loved working with the children! It made me want to be a special education teacher.
Why were you willing to spend most of your summer volunteering at Summer Camp? • If it wasn’t for volunteering I would be sitting on my butt all summer! • Because I think it’s rewarding. • My job was flexible, so I could go to work after Autism camp ended. • We did a lot of fun activities and field trips. Also, the experience I received from volunteering was great!
What do you like about volunteering at camp? • I learned so much about special education. • I love getting to know the kids! • The kids can’t help but be exactly who they are all the time! • It didn’t seem like I was ever doing any work!
What have you learned from your experiences volunteering at camp? • Mostly, you can’t judge a book by its cover. • Even though they have disabilities, they can still play and have fun like other kids. • Kids with autism are STILL KIDS! • You can learn a lot about life and grow great friendships volunteering. I never knew what I wanted to do “when I grew up” until I started volunteering.
Last year, 2009, when we went to Jersey Cheese Farm, I was looking after a boy in my class, and he is usually afraid to try new things. But he actually milked a cow and pet a calf!
Playing “Monster Battle” with one of the boys in the room. We would take whiteboard markers and draw these crazy creatures and they would battle… we would draw lasers, and “cute rays”, and erase each others’ monsters, and draw in reinforcements. It was a creativity workout!!
My favorite experience would be the end-of-camp cookout. We got to meet all of the students’ parents and play games. It was always my favorite day every year.
My favorite experience was playing ToonTown with one of the kids in my room. He helped me make my account and get started, and he always wanted to get on and try to beat each other in “mini-game competitions” when we went to the computer lab. He beat me every single time!
Volunteering is a great way to give back to your community. It helps everyone!