A rainbow of numbered cartoon faces hang on the wall. Each face has a distinct expression that represents not only an emotion, but a way to communicate. If you are a number 1, you are smiling, content and happy. If you are a number 5, you are frowning, angry and out of control. This 5-point-scale was used as part of Camp SOS at Children’s Village to teach young boys on the Autism spectrum how to communicate their emotions.
“Who is at a 1 right now?” says Cindy Carroll, a Children’s Village speech therapist. *8 hands shoot up into the air*
These 8-12 year-old boys who have been diagnosed with autism, spent the week of June 17th at Children’s Village learning strategies, coping skills and other social skills. The team at Children’s Village used an innovative teaching approach to ingrain “super heroic” thinking in the students to take on various challenges, as represented by cartoon characters such as Topic Twister, Brain Eater and others.
They learned to find their “superpower,” or what calms them down—It could be chewing gum, listening to music, drawing or playing with silly putty. They all became Socially Outstanding Super-Agents with the help of Superflex, a superhero who encourages them to be more flexible thinkers.
Camp SOS is for children like Luis Alfaro, who has been coming to Children’s Village for 8 ½ years, as well as children like Pablo Aramburo, who has been here for 2 years. Both families have learned a lot, not only from Camp SOS, but from the entire Children’s Village experience.
“I feel more useful when helping my son. The information that I have received at the Village has made our family more patient and understanding on how to interact with our child,” says Monica Aramburo. Her son Pablo showed much improvement during Camp SOS. Monica watched her son through a one-way window during the sessions and would not stop smiling and taking pictures through the window with her phone.
Pablo’s friend Luis also showed improvement from Camp SOS. When Luis started coming to the Village, the only words that he would speak were “ma” and “pa.” Now, he can carry on full conversations.
“I decided to bring Luis to Camp SOS because he is very shy. For him, it is torture to go out in public. Whenever we don’t have anyone to watch him he has a hard time—even at the grocery store,” says Isela Frias, Luis’s mother. Isela hoped that the camp experience would encourage Luis to play with other children and socialize more.
From the looks of the smiles on everyone’s faces, Camp SOS was a success. The camp rules of “laugh and make friends” and “have infinity fun” were definitely followed by everyone.