Participation in recreational summer camp programs is a valuable opportunity for children to develop physical and social-emotional skills. However, in order for all children to be able to reap these benefits, it is important for summer camps to provide an inclusive environment for all participants. The Arlington Recreation Department, which hosts a variety of affordable summer camp programs, recognized the need for updated inclusivity protocols and practices within their own summer programs in order to support all participants.
For our doctoral capstone projects this summer, we had the unique opportunity to conduct extended observations of two of the recreation department summer camp programs, as well as interview department staff through the lens of inclusion and occupational performance. We were mentored by recreation department director Joseph Connelly M. Ed. on site, as well as Tufts faculty member Dr. Ryan Whitney OT, OTD, OTR, MA. Our final recommendation reports seek to build on existing program strengths to create a more inclusive environment for all campers.
Recreational Program Staff Training and Inclusivity: An Exploration (Rebecca Rutta, OT/s): For my DEC project, I chose to focus on how inclusion and participation of campers of all abilities is addressed during staff training and through feedback given to staff by program administrators throughout the summer. After conducting qualitative thematic analysis of program observation and interview data, I produced reports outlining specific recommendations for how both staff and administrators of the program can be trained in universal inclusion and behavior support. These recommendations highlighted the importance of hands-on and interactive training activities, clear behavior expectations and procedures for both staff and campers, activity grading, and regular constructive feedback for staff. I look forward to further exploring how OT can support full participation in inclusive recreational settings in my work as a clinician.
Rebecca sorting qualitative data into themes as part of her analysis
Program Evaluation of Inclusion Within Arlington Recreation Summer Programs for Young Children (Alison Swayne, OT/s): For my DEC project, I conducted a holistic program analysis, considering camper strengths and needs, camp activities, staff practices and perspectives, environmental factors, camper demographics, and more. After a summer of total immersion in the program, I produced two recommendation reports outlining suggestions for growth. Categories of recommendations included approaches to staffing, systems of communication, physical environment, play and social participation, and policies and marketing. I hope to continue exploring the role of OT to promote inclusion within summer camp environments in the future.
Based on the recommendations produced by our projects, the Arlington Recreation Department is looking to hire an inclusion specialist for the upcoming summer season! In addition, the department will host another DEC student this summer to facilitate implementation of some of our recommendations for staff training and program operation. We are thrilled to have helped set the stage for this continuing important work in the Town of Arlington.