So many people work hard to make summer at Camp Royall a reality, including facility staff, lifeguards, activity directors, and counselors. Just as we enjoy seeing campers grow over the years, we also enjoy seeing the professional development of our staff as they return summer after summer. For many people, working as a counselor at Camp Royall is the first step in a rich and rewarding career helping others.
People interested in working as counselors at Camp Royall are not required to have any knowledge of or experience with autism; the most important things for potential staff members are the right attitude, a willingness to learn, and a lot of enthusiasm. Once staffers are hired, they complete an on-site intensive professional training lasting more than a week to learn how to provide the one-on-one support that makes Camp Royall so successful.
Our custom training includes presentations on autism, preventing challenging behaviors, communication strategies, and personal care for campers from senior camp leadership, ASNC’s Clinical Department, and an occupational therapist. Staffers also hear from panels of self-advocates and parents, who share what Camp Royall means for them and their families.
Ensuring camper safety is a huge part of the training. Staff lead safe space training so that counselors learn how to create safe spaces for all, regardless of race, gender, orientation, or ability. Counselors are then trained on all of Camp Royall’s programs and activities, including the horse program, the zap line, boating, the sensory room, and arts and crafts. They learn how to ensure the safety of their camper during each activity as well as how to provide encouragement and build on skills during these activities. There are also sessions on water safety, fire safety, and first aid. For the past two summers, staff have also received extensive training on safety protocols related to COVID-19.
In addition to these instructional sessions, counselors spend several hours each day observing and assisting an experienced staff member with a camper. The counselors then meet in small groups to debrief on what they observed and learned. Throughout the training, they complete worksheets on their observations and the lectures to enforce their learning and ensure comprehension.
Even during this intensive training, there is time for some Camp Royall fun! Counselors learn camp songs and engage in teambuilding activities such as dance challenges, trivia games, and other friendly competitions.
Once camp starts, counselors receive ongoing supervision and assistance, as they work with different campers with unique needs each week. This professional development helps our counselors provide the very best camp experience for those we serve. While our campers have their best week ever, making friends, trying new things, and building skills, we find that our counselors have an amazing summer as well, leaving with lifelong friendships, an amazing feeling of accomplishment, and more compassion for others.
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This article previously appeared in the Summer 2021 issue of Spectrum.
Tags: ASNC, autism, Autism Society of North Carolina, Autism spectrum, Camp Royall