Social Thinking® at Camp Firefly
by Elizabeth Robbin MS, CCC-SLP, Camp Firefly Director and Julie Feldman LCSW, Camp Firefly Assistant Director
As the prevalence and understanding of Autism Spectrum and Social Communication Disorders has grown, families have become inundated with treatment models and approaches that are being touted as the next best thing. Camp Firefly recognizes that many evidence-based, effective approaches do exist, and appreciates the benefits that each has to offer. However, in order to meet the needs of our campers, we have found that the Social Thinking ® approach developed by Michelle Garcia Winner has proven to be the most appropriate for our recreative camp therapy model.
Social Thinking ® has been described by as a way of thinking flexibly about every unique situation and person whom we encounter. It is not necessarily an approach for teaching basic social skills, but a way to engage a child, teen, or adult in initiating and responding to interactions in ways that brings them positive results, such as confidence, happiness, and success!
The Social Thinking ® approach has various models which help to understand how to tailor strategies for teaching flexible thinking. One such model is called the ILAUGH ® model. It is an acronym that describes the skills needed to be successful within social interactions.
- I = Initiation of Communication using effective language skills
- L = Listening with Eyes and Brain to both observe and hear the responses from others
- A = Abstract and Inferential Language for understanding the nuances of idioms, metaphors, sarcasm, etc.
- U = Understanding Perspective by taking into account another person’s thoughts, emotions, beliefs, personality, etc.
- G = Getting the Big Picture and staying focused on a central theme rather than getting caught up in the details
- H = Humor and Human Relations to understand that everyone makes mistakes in social interactions and humor can help us make light of those pesky faux pas
In order to teach such skills and thinking styles to our campers, our Camp Firefly team tailors recommended Social Thinking ® interventions to best meet each camper’s needs. One of our favorite Camp Firefly activities is the Communication Web. Below is a counselor’s perspective of how the use of such an activity made a large impact, not only on a camper, but also on her.
It’s Not Just a Friendship Bracelet
by Ali Katz
Camp Firefly Counselor
A few years ago after returning from Camp Firefly, I was hanging out with a couple of my friends. One of my friends began to tug on two bracelets tied to my arm for the past three months. My friend chuckled a little and asked me in a cynical tone, "Why do you have those friendship bracelets on?" For me, the answer was simple - they have meaning and significance that at the time of my questioning, I couldn't exactly put into words.
But camp isn’t just about friendship bracelets and games that will improve the campers’ social abilities throughout the school year. Camp is about having fun and learning at the same time. Camp is a place for the kids to utilize their surroundings and environment to have the best time of their lives and we, as a staff, are there to support them in whatever they want to do. Whether that means they want to rock climb, swim in the deep end, kayak, or just make an art project, we are there to guide them in their fun without getting in the way. Camp is a place for these kids to feel like individuals while still being part of a larger group community. And at the end of the day, the campers come together in song and dance in order to celebrate the amazing opportunities they have at Camp Firefly that might not be given to them during the year.
So to answer my friend’s question – “why do I have the bracelet on my wrist?” Well, I keep it there, not because I need it to remind me of my amazing experiences at Camp Firefly, but rather because it is a conversation starter. It allows me to talk about my life changing time at camp. The bracelet allows me to show-off a camp that goes above and beyond all expectations and constantly influences these campers‟ lives in such a positive way. To me, it signifies the selfish need I have to brag about a camp that compares to no other.
As Ali noted, the power of these experiences lies in the context of the magic that is camp and what it’s participants bring to it. Consider making Camp Firefly a part of your life and “Brighten Up Your Summer!”