5 Ways We Develop Campers Social Skills at Camp Sequoia
February 19, 2021
At Camp Sequoia, helping our campers create and maintain friendships both at camp and throughout the school year is our top priority. As the first camp in America founded specifically for social skills development, our research-based approach to organic social skills growth underpins every aspect of our program, from staffing to our three-step enrollment process to our social skills curriculum. As a social skills development camp, our targeted strategy can be broken down into five key factors.
Social Skills Group
The most obvious way we help our campers develop socially is through our social skills group. Brian Lux, our camp director, spent much of his career researching frustration tolerance in the 2e (twice-exceptional) mind while working as an educator and coordinator for public school gifted programs. His innovations and evidence-informed methods on the twice-exceptional mind and frustration tolerance, which have been presented twice at the World Gifted Conference and the 2020 National ADHD Conference, are foundational to our social skills curriculum and interwoven throughout the fabric of camp.
Daily throughout the summer, each of our five divisions connects formally with our social skills team, lead by Kristen Souva, LMSW, Bill Parker, who holds a Master’s degree in counseling, and Doctor Lew, our licensed psychologist, to partake in interactive, developmentally appropriate lessons designed to build skills relating to social development. Situational awareness, proxemics, conversational reciprocity, emotional regulation, mindfulness, frustration tolerance, friendship maintenance, teamwork, empathy, and body language perception are just a few of the topics we delve into during our social skills groups. Additionally, our social skills team creates individual reports for all of our campers summarizing their time with us, specifics on their development, and recommendations for further growth during the year so their parents and the professionals in their lives can continue to help them thrive socially outside of camp.
Peer to Peer Interactions
At camp, we firmly believe in a “actions speak louder than words” approach to social skills development, as academically it has been proven time and again that implementing skills is much more important than being able to explain them verbally. After all, a Monday morning quarterback doesn’t help you win the game on Sunday. Because of this, camp revolves around taking topics we have discussed and role played during social skills groups and purposefully incorporating them into every facet of our campers’ interactions with each other to help foster lasting friendships. Camp Sequoia is a technology-free environment, as we’ve learned through years of research that children who struggle socially tend to use technology to replace their social deficit (think a 21st-century version of Linus and his blanket). By removing technological distractions and supplementing their time with exciting activities, we’ve found that our kids reach outside the comfort zones they’ve found behind their screens and create friendships with their peers.
In the Moment Interventions
Our sensational 100% US-based staff are specifically trained to help our campers connect and implement specific social skills topics from our curriculum and their individualized social skills goals. We search out exceptional staff members working towards or holding degrees in social work, education, counseling, psychology, anthropology, speech and language pathology, or other related fields to ensure a dedicated team with specialized knowledge in our population. Coupled with our 2 to 5 staffing ratio and specialized training program, our staff members create a tight-knit team of experienced individuals working to ensure our camper’s social skills development during camp.
The heart of our success lies in our intentionality behind everything in our programming. Even small things, like our meal and dining options, location, transportation to camp, medication administration by our nurses, and rest periods are structurally designed to enhance our camper’s social experience and lead them to thrive during their time at camp. For example, take our rooming procedures. We provide our campers with suite-style accommodations and a roommate, which we carefully select for each camper by examining the camper profiles of the profiles in their age group and matching them with someone who shares their sleeping habits, interests, and preferences. We also ask that all luggage arrives at camp before campers arrive so we can set up their space to ensure they feel at home as soon as they arrive, with their favorite blanket on the bed and a picture of their family on the desk. From day one at camp, these practices set our young men up to form lasting friendships.
Programming and Activities
How do people organically form friendships? The key ingredients to any relationship are the commonalities we find between ourselves and others, whether that be interests, temperaments, or geographical locations. Because of this fundamental building block, camp revolves around providing our campers with a fun-filled summer experience, full of mentally-stimulating and enriching activities they can enjoy with others. What better way to learn how to make lasting friendships than through playing D&D, participating in team sports, or creating 3D models in STEM? From art to chess to outdoor adventure, Camp Sequoia offers a wide variety of activities for our campers, so they are able to have fun with like-minded individuals and develop social skills with the help of our skilled activity specialists. With our social skills lessons and programming underpinning every program and activity, we can make camp feel like camp for our young men while helping them blossom into the best version of themselves.
At Camp Sequoia, social skills development is woven into the fabric of every aspect of camp, and year after year we see amazing growth in our campers as they benefit from our research-based approach to social and emotional development. Interested in learning more about our population or summer program? Join us for an upcoming Virtual Open House, where our Director, members of our Leadership Team, and returning camper families provide a tour of our fantastic facilities and hold a Q&A. We look forward to speaking with you soon!