This is an annual camp held in the December holidays for children aged 6-10 years. It is run by occupational therapists. The general approach of this camp is to provide a safe, tailor-made holiday experience for the child who would normally not be catered for within regular holiday camps. It caters for children who have been receiving therapy/are presently receiving therapy and need to practice/ nurture life skills. This venture is supported by SAISI in the form of sponsorship for the students/therapists who would otherwise not be able to afford the camping costs. Please visit www.kwelacamp.co.za
A testimonial from a newly qualified therapist who attended the December 2018 camp:
I am a newly qualified Occupational Therapist, who graduated from the University of Witwatersrand just two days before KWELA Camp 2018. My course, in particular, did not allow for much experience in paediatrics, despite it being my greatest area of interest. My practical knowledge was gained only through a 4 week elective block, which I spent observing therapists at a Sensory Integration practice in Durbanville. It was here were I first learnt about the KWELA camp. It sounded like an amazing opportunity to not only learn more about sensory integration, but to gain practical experience in how it works. KWELA did indeed teach me, but in a way that far exceeded my expectations.
KWELA became the ultimate lesson of occupational therapy as a whole. It was a rare privilege to walk through each child’s daily occupations from start to finish, and to see the interconnectedness of these occupations with their individual personalities, habits and difficulties. With this in-depth understanding of each child’s occupations, we as therapists could adapt our approaches and guide the children in their routines, consequently building independence and promoting occupational engagement. From showering and eating, to working in a group and playing, each situation was used as a therapeutic opportunity and the results were amazing. One case that comes to mind is that of an 11 year old boy with suspected ASD. At the start of the camp he was mostly dependent in his personal management tasks, requiring constant prompting and physical support to get dressed. By the end of the camp he was completing these tasks with minimal prompting and no physical support. This improvement was, in part, attributed to the SI focused therapy.
The exposure to SI as a whole was also phenomenal. The incredible therapists took time to explain the “why” behind each therapeutic activity and tool they used, like the spandex. They explained the core aspects of SI in a way that was both interesting and incredibly informative. The therapists described core concepts like the tactile, vestibular and proprioceptive systems, and how through the use of different tools and activities we as therapists can influence these systems. They explained how increasing and decreasing stimuli can be used to achieve the ultimate goal of integration of the systems. One experience I was not expecting was that of completing the SI “obstacle courses” myself. It was a unique opportunity to put myself in the children’s shoes, to see how they might respond and to acknowledge how my own systems respond.
Hand-in-hand with this I completed my own sensory profile, which further taught me about my own systems and interpretations of the world. It gave me a deeper understanding of myself both personally, why I act the way I do with peers and family, and professionally, how I respond and relate to my patients, and in this case the children. We were also orientated to the Alert Programme, a tool used to help the children monitor, maintain and adjust their alertness levels. I found myself using these strategies to monitor and adjust my own alertness level, controlling my systems and feelings to extend my therapeutic use of self.
These strategies came in handy as the camp was also tough, with early mornings and late nights. They helped me cope with the demands, allowing me to recognise when I needed a break, and aiding me when a break was not a possibility. The busy days also challenged me as a person to take initiative, to be responsible for my own learning, and trust my own abilities with the children. For example, I ran one of the craft activities. This was a rewarding opportunity to practice my clinical reasoning – particularly with knowing when to upgrade and downgrade activities and when to make slight adjustments to the presentation of the activities. I had to trust what I had learnt theoretically in university and put it into practice, and use the mishaps as learning, improving the activity for the next group.
Despite the physical and emotional demands of the camp, everything was so worth it in the end. Seeing such improvement in the children, and knowing I played a small part in this, was an indescribable feeling. This camp gave me an opportunity to explore working with children and looking back, this is something I definitely want to do.
In conclusion, KWELA was a phenomenal experience that gave me the opportunity to grow my knowledge and myself, both professionally and personally. I would like to extend my biggest and most sincere thanks to SAISI, for affording me this incredible opportunity. This experience is not something I will easily forget. I look forward to working with SAISI in the future to become an SI qualified OT!