Welcome back to all our readers and wishes for a prosperous and sensory-inspired 2020!  In today’s blog post we hear from a bunch of hard-working therapists who are bringing sensory integration to children in the Cape in a whole different way during the December break.

Just a month ago, KWELA camp, the brainchild of Nita Lombard and Suzanne Olivier, celebrated its 20th camp in December 2019. The Kids With Energy Love Activity anagram rang true at camp, with 5 jam-packed days of activity. Robyn Turnbull, a Sensory Integration therapist at Sensory Kidzone and the KWELA camp coordinator for 2019 shares her experiences and thoughts with us.

KWELA camp is a unique specialized experience designed for children from 6 to 10 years. This 5-day intensive camp utilizes a Sensory Integrative approach, life skills, social emotional facilitation, observations for diagnostic purposes as well as training students and young therapists.

Daily life skills sessions introduced the lessons for the day, followed by craft sessions, perceptual motor and sensory integration sessions where the lessons from life skills were further instilled. These lessons encouraged our campers to practice turn taking, respecting others’ wishes and accepting that one might make mistakes – and that it is fine to make mistakes! Nothing teaches you to appreciate this lesson more than falling out of a spandex bridge onto piles of squishy mattresses. Mistakes can be fun too.

The theme and lessons from the movie Aladdin guided the planning for the life skills throughout the camp, with individualism being the key theme for the children to embrace. And did they embrace it! The concert evening held on the 2nd last day of camp is always a highlight for children and facilitators alike. With the hall set up like a theatre, the children performed a skit put together with their life skills group and were invited to perform individual acts as well. We were treated to singing, puppet shows, and even break-dancing. The courage of these children is enough to make the strongest of therapists emotional.

The 2019 camp welcomed the inclusion of hippotherapy. Patricia Hart travelled herself, two horses, games and tack all the way from Hout Bay to share the beauty of horses with us, and their therapeutic movement. The wordless, non-confrontational being of the horses brought a calmness to camp and instilled this calmness in the children who needed it.

The sensory integration session was a highlight for all children at camp. The opportunity to enter that room and climb on those swings got the children quite excited. At the new venue we had an even larger space in which to design and build the sensory integration lab – and nothing inspires a sensory integration therapist more than a large space and infinite suspension points! To date, the 2019 sensory integration lab was the biggest with the most individual pieces of equipment used in each session.

A new leaf of Kwela camp was turned as the decision to host the first optional-sleepover camp was taken, guided by the concerned parents’ “what if..”’s and “(s)he has never slept away from home.” Therapists were ecstatic at the response of children who changed their minds to join their peers in sleeping over at camp; considering that we had no television, cellphone or computer games on offer. The impressive nature of the children to seek out challenges for themselves, push their social boundaries and step up to independence was awe-inspiring.

Climbing the ‘KWELA mountain’ of planning, challenging oneself and growing was well worth it when parents gave feedback to state that their children: “can’ t stop talking about the activities from camp”, or “did not want to come home”, or said “they want to come again next year”. What better way to empower the children than through play!

Therapists and students also climbed their own KWELA mountains throughout the journey of receiving thorough training in the concept of a therapeutic community and specifically applying principles of occupational performance within a framework of Occupational Therapy.

We acknowledge and appreciate SAISI sponsorship in support of KWELA camp.

We thank the team of Taaibosch camp in Durbanville for their adaptability, and their willingness to meet the high expectations of the therapists.

We congratulate the parents who allowed their children to sleep over for the first time.

We applaud the therapists who gave 100% to the children despite their own struggles with change, limited hours of sleep, and year-end burnout.

I applaud the vision of the camp. And the people who drive its success.

Written by Robyn Turnbull – Kwela Camp Coordinator 2019.  Please visit their website here.