Report Offers Guidance for Camp Inclusion Coordinators
A new report offers resources, advice, and support for how best to serve young people with disabilities in Jewish camps.
Developed by the William Davidson Graduate School of Education of JTS and the Foundation for Jewish Camp, the report notes that an increasing number of camps are welcoming the participation of young people with disabilities. In addition, more camps are designating “inclusion coordinators” to oversee how camps serve these children.
For the study, called “Including Campers with Disabilities,” researchers chose a group of 15 fellows—inclusion coordinators from summer camps around the country—to spend two years sharing and discussing their experiences through monthly webinars, which often featured guest presenters. Each fellow also completed an on-site project.
The result is a rich compendium of stories from the field describing the challenges faced by inclusion coordinators and innovative ways to surmount them, even with limited resources. It also includes notes, summaries, and advice gleaned from the fellows’ monthly meetings.
In a series of “project profiles,” inclusion coordinators describe their work and what they’ve learned through it. “Achieving successful inclusion programming comes from the top, with setting examples and letting your staff know what your vision is,” says Jennifer Phillips, the director of recreation for Keshet, an organization that provides services for individuals with disabilities, and the inclusion coordinator for Camp Chi, a summer camp in Wisconsin.
Other inclusion coordinators describe projects such as creating a “sensory area” for campers with special sensory needs and creating an internship program for inclusion staff.
The report also includes core principles and values that helped guide the work of inclusion coordinators throughout the two years. “Every child has a place at camp,” reads the first value. “Inclusion in any activity is a camper’s right,” reads another.
“We learned so much from working directly with camp-based inclusion coordinators,” said Dr. Jeffrey Kress, Dr. Bernard Heller chair in Jewish Education and director of research at the Leadership Commons of The William Davidson School and one of the leaders of the study. “This report is our way of highlighting and sharing the wisdom and expertise of the participants in this group.”
In addition to Dr. Kress, the study was led by Dr. Abigail Uhrman, assistant professor of Jewish Education at The William Davidson School, and Lisa Tobin, former director of inclusion initiatives of the Foundation of Jewish Camp.