ALCOA, Tenn. — This summer camp doesn't feature swimming or camping. It's designed for children with special needs who benefit from therapy: Camp Grow at Blount Memorial Pediatric Rehabilitation.
The kids need occupational therapy and speech therapy for different reasons.
For 4-year-old Keeton French, it was a developmental delay. Her mom said she wasn't rolling over or sitting up on schedule so her parents enrolled her in physical therapy when she was 6-months old.
Now she is back on track.
"She talks like she should, she jumps like she should, she walks like she should. People ask me all the time, well, wouldn't she have done this anyway? Probably. But she would not have done it as quick and be where she's at now and we definitely wouldn't have had the support that we have," Amanda French said.
Camp Grow is a three-week session for some of those regular patients.
Each child has a therapist but they are in a group, being social. The adults like it as much as the kids.
Emily Miller is a Blount Memorial Speech Language Pathologist who is part of the camp.
"I love getting to do the more active things that I don't get to do in Speech like doing the crab walks and the sensory-motor stuff and I love getting to what the OTs (Occupational Therapists) are doing and be involved in crafts and stuff like that so it is really fun and it is fun to see the kids enjoy those activities as well," she said.
The activities serve a therapeutic purpose. Games get the kids moving while crafts require motor skills to manipulate objects. The children seem to talk the whole time.
"We incorporate the speech skills throughout so we are working on turn taking and answering what and where questions and we're working on labeling and then social skills interacting with peers and talking to each other," Emily Miller said.
For someone with sensory issues, touching and texture can be uncomfortable. A crab-making craft with glue and hand painting and cotton lets them interact with textures in a fun setting.
Keeton's mother said, "This is our second year in Camp Grow and she absolutely loves it. This year, after the first day, she did not want to leave. She had a little meltdown. She cried when it was time to go. Say bye to her new friends and bye to her new teacher. We had to sit and talk about it a little bit but now she absolutely loves it."
Now Keeton says goodbye with a smile. The class ends with a circle of hand clapping and singing.
"We had fun together, playing with each other, goodbye friends."