Friday, May 15, 2009

Camp Courage Minnesota: Teaching reading to persons with cognitive disorders

I just came across this 2004 post (which I’d written, but forgotten) …
Gordon's Notes: Strategies for teaching reading to the cognitively disabled
… has a web site with lots of additional material...
Strategies for Teaching Reading to Students with Severe Disabilities
... Dr. Koppenhaver notes that, in his research … he and his colleagues found that the cognitive processes of learning to read for students with severe disabilities are almost identical to those of typically developing students. The only difference is in their ability to demonstrate skills through standard assessment measures.…
.. See also the UNC center for literacy and disability studies.
It reminds me to write about literacy programs for persons with cognitive disabilities.
Our son is enrolled this summer at Minnesota’s Courage Camps literacy camp from June 28 to July 3 (2007 description). It’s directed by Koppenhaver and his students …
… This unique session is for struggling readers (all disabilities), ages 12-18, who would like a positive literacy experience. Educators under the direction of Dr. David Koppenhaver and Dr. Karen Erickson, national literacy experts, will be working with campers to determine literacy needs and intervention strategies to begin to address those needs… Campers must be ambulatory and independent with self-care….

David Koppenhaver's web site is:
Koppenhaver is one busy guy. My wife met with the camp director who’s also a paragon of productivity and energy.

We were concerned the camp would be a bit on the dull side, but the program is pretty appealing for an active teen. We don’t, however, underestimate the challenge of getting our 12 yo to go and stay there.

There really isn’t time for a large amount of reading practice, the core value is the individualized assessment and customized reading development program. The camp also trains local educators, several of whom will teach at Highland Jr High School where my son is going this September. At least one other MN Special Hockey athlete will attend.

Update 6/7/09: We visited the Courage Center Camp in May. It's an amazing facility. I hope to have pictures up and link to them. The camp has a twitter feed and a blogspot blog.

Update 6/26/09: The pictures are on a public Picasa web album.

Update 7/3/09: We're back from camp. The session costs us $800. I think the cost may be adjusted by income, but we're fortunate enough (really) to pay full freight. Our son had a very positive experience. It was his first extended time on his own, and he flew through it, largely taking care of himself. He did much better than we'd expected.

On the other hand, as a reading intervention it wasn't so hot. He tested out much worse than he has at school, which is very depressing. Was he fatigued? Not participating? Or is he truly unable to retain reading skills - or, even worse - are his cognitive abilities deteriorating? I hope it's the first two, but I do fear he rapidly loses reading abilities.

The test results, though tough to hear, are, obviously not a flaw of the program. I was disappointed, however, in how limited the recommendations and prescriptions were. I'm proud of myself for only presenting a glassy smile (ok, maybe a quick grimace) when we were urged to "read lots". (Honest, I didn't scream and I didn't rend my garments.)

We did get a useful referral to the Tar Heel Reader site, and we do know our money went to a good cause, so no regrets. I don't think we'll do it next year though. We need to come up with something different, and I think we'll have to do it ourselves.

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