Summer camp can be more than a good time.
The University of Tennessee's Volunteer Your Voice Camp reinforces important skills while campers enjoy outdoor fun.
The campers explore the great outdoors at the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont.
"I didn't think I would like it that much but after awhile I thought yeah this is my camp," 14 year old Bradley Early said.
He ended up embracing the mission of the camp to help kids with speech, language and hearing disorders.
"Most people think of speech therapy and happening in an 8 by 8 therapy room when sitting at tables and chairs but communication happens everywhere so speech therapy can be done anywhere," Tricia Hedinger said. "At meal times, while hiking, while searching for salamanders and out on the water."
Tricia Hedinger is an Assistant Professor in Ut's Department of Audiology and Speech Pathology.
The week-long camp reinforces what the young people usually do in a clinical setting.
"They get to practice in more fun playful situations so it's not a chore, it's not therapy. It's ok these are my goals let's use them," Tricia said.
By the end of the week, they are closer to meeting those goals of better communication.
Bradley said, "Well you see stuttering is the reason they brought me over here. They want to help me out with the problem and I've been doing real well since I first came."
During our interview Bradley did not stutter at all.
Campers are 8 to 15 years old. Leah Hall is 16 and this is her third year here.
"I got to come back this year as a co-counselor. Last year I was a camper," she said.
She is deaf and has cochlear implants. Despite her hearing loss her speech is perfectly clear and that makes Leah a role model for the campers.
"I've seen them make a lot of progress, like Bradley, he stutters and he's gotten really good," she said.
Bradley agreed, "I stutter less and I can get the words out of my mouth easier."
They aren't the only ones building their skills. Most of the grownups out there in the water are graduate students at UT.
"The graduate students have an opportunity to see how they can provide therapy in a different setting," Tricia said.
Leah said, "It's amazing. It's truly an adventure. And it's amazing to get to know more people that have the same thing as you."
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