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Reflections on Adam's Camp - A Music Therapist's Perspective

Reflections on Adam’s Camp – A Music Therapist’s Perspective

By Ryan Judd, MA, MT-BC

When I was a young music therapist fresh out of grad school, I kept hearing about Adam’s Camp. All I knew was that it was an intensive therapy camp for kids with special needs, whose treatment model was “5 Kids, 5 Therapists, 5 Days.” It sounded intriguing but to be honest, I felt slightly intimidated to work there. Was I ready for the level of intense therapy and collaboration that Adam’s Camp demanded? Could I really make a difference and help these kids make significant improvements in only 5 days? Would the other therapists be supportive of my approach? Because of these questions and insecurities, I brushed it off for a couple of years. Then one spring, I changed my mind and accepted their invitation to participate in a summer camp. My application was accepted and I was scheduled to work one week that summer.

When I arrived Saturday Morning, things seemed pretty laid-back and I enjoyed getting to know my team. There were five of us: an OT, PT, SLP, Art Therapist and me. There were also two amazing volunteers who were college students studying to work with children with special needs. The next night we met the families and kids for the first time, and then early Monday morning, the therapy began. Here’s what our schedule looked like:

  • 8:00 am - Continuous individual and group therapy begins with our 5 campers

  • 10:00 am – Snack (Wolf down some food but remember that these times are all about helping the kids with social skills, speech and communication skills and feeding goals)

  • 10:30 am - Individual and groups sessions continue

  • 12:00 pm – Lunch (Resume shoving food into mouth but keep focused on helping the kids reach their goals)

  • 12:30 pm - More sessions

  • 2:30 pm – Parents come to pick up their children (Breathe, smile and clean up)

  • 3:00 pm – Shower off the sweat, grime, food, markers, mucus, etc.

  • 4:00 to 10:00 pm - Team planning, documentation and dinner as a team

  • 10:30 pm - Go to sleep exhausted, but inspired, wake up and do it again

By Wednesday, I was wiped out, but my determination to make a real difference with these children’s development was reignited by witnessing the incredible effort of my team and the progress that I saw kids making. The feedback and enthusiasm from the parents was also a great motivator.

Thursday afternoon came and although I don’t usually drink coffee in the afternoon, I gladly poured myself a big ol’ mug of Joe. That night we stayed up late putting together amazing books for each camper that included all of our feedback about their strengths and abilities, learning styles, goals, interventions, results, and recommendations. We also included beautiful pictures of each child’s week at camp that illustrated all of these points.

Friday was the last day of camp and the parents joined us for our final group activity. This was a music therapy, social skills group, so the pressure was on me! I was crazy nervous but the kids responded beautifully and the parents beamed their appreciation and approval. After the music therapy group, I rushed to clean up my space, jumped into the van with the rest of my team, and we flew back to our rooms. I cleaned myself up, inhaled some food and got ready for five hours of individual parent conferences. We shared the camper books that we made the night before, discussed the gains that each child had made, and suggested many ideas and strategies for continued development. There were tears, smiles, laughter and gratitude all around.

The conferences wrapped up at 8 pm and our team celebrated our success. Saturday morning I drove home and was thankful for the long, peaceful drive through the mountains so I could reflect on the amazing and incredibly challenging week I had just been through. One thing I knew for sure was that Adam’s Camp was going to be a part of my life for many years to come.

For more than 25 years, Adam’s Camp has been helping children with special needs. They are based in Colorado and this year will be starting a camp at Loon Mountain in New Hampshire. We are so lucky to have this opportunity come to our doorstep, and I am looking forward to my eighth summer at Adam’s Camp.

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