Recently, I returned from a 10-day stay at Camp Shout Out in Holton, Michigan.
Camp Shout Out is a week-long summer camp program for children and adolescents who stutter. Its mission is to bring together youth with fluency problems, speech language pathologists and graduate students guided by Board Certified Specialists-Fluency to learn, teach and empower each other to become more competent communicators and therapists in a safe, fun and natural environment.
I spent the first two full days at camp in training activities, preparing for the arrival of the campers on Monday morning. After that, I participated in many camp activities--including eating with the campers in the dining hall, recreational and sports activities, watching the older campers perform skits that they had written and rehearsed about communication, attending morning mini-lessons with the campers and evening share times around the fire pit, among others. I think I learned even more from the campers and the camp experience than they did from me!
Perhaps, the most important thing I accomplished at Camp Shout Out was facing and overcoming many of my fears. I traveled to Michigan alone, catching a flight to O'Hare and a connecting flight to the local Muskegon airport, where I was picked up by a volunteer and driven to the camp site. Despite my fears, I did not miss my connecting flight. On another day, I climbed 35 feet above the ground to walk on the high rope. I did not fall! A few days later, I walked on a rope bridge erected by the older campers.
I learned how empowering it is to face and overcome one's fears. Fears can be very debilitating. I realize that what may be easy for me can be very anxiety-provoking for someone with fluency problems, such as making a telephone call or presenting in front of a class or business meeting. I intend to draw on this experience to enable me to be even more empathetic in my work with people who stutter.