Camp Chatterbox

Camp Chatterbox is a one week overnight camp for children and young adults, ages 5-22, who use synthesized Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) devices. All campers participate in a range of social, recreational, and educational activities to promote use of their communication systems and interact with other children. Therapy activities are led by licensed and ASHA Certified Speech-Language Pathologists, special education teachers, recreational therapists, and other qualified professionals.  Activities facilitate AAC device use throughout the day, and help build expressive language and critical thinking skills in a fun and functional environment. In addition, recreational activities include swimming, nature exploration, art, and sports. Each evening, campers, siblings, parents, and staff gather for activities such as campfires, dances, and a camp talent show. 

Location: Rising Treetops at Oakhurst in Monmouth County

Rising Treetops' 15-acre facility is barrier-free and includes 12 totally accessible buildings to accommodate all Chatterbox program activities. It has a heated swimming pool with a retractable roof.  There is a children’s ball field, a campfire site, gymnasium, recreation hall, media arts room, and arts & crafts area. Rising Treetops can be easily reached from Newark Airport (EWR) and is close to the Elberon Station of the NJ Transit North Jersey Coast Line.  Rising Treetops is close to the beach, the boardwalk, and other area attractions of the New Jersey Shore. 

2019 Dates: August 18-24, 2019

Camper Criteria:

  • Children and youth 5-22 years old who communicate using AAC systems such as Eye-Gaze accessible speech generating devices, tablets with communication apps, etc.
  • Campers must be able to participate in therapy and recreation activities without requiring one-to-one behavioral support.

Programs

Family Program

Parents & siblings join the AAC campers for a week-long family camp experience. The whole family shares cabins with other families. Parents connect with each other for support and also receive training from Speech & Language Pathologists. Siblings participate fully in all recreational activities of camp.

Independent Camper Self-Advocacy Program

Youth between 15-22 years old who are linguistically competent using an AAC device are encouraged to attend this program without their family. These campers can benefit from activities that help build critical thinking skills, problem solving skills, and advanced pragmatic abilities. Depending upon their skills and goals, campers in this independent program may have the opportunity to serve as a mentor for younger campers enrolled in the Family Program. Campers have the opportunity to use their AAC devices to communicate with unfamiliar listeners, direct their care and advocate for their needs.  They learn to accept responsibilities for their schedule and build leadership skills.  There are also plenty of opportunities for just plain old fun!

Independent/Self-Advocacy Camper personal care information:

  • Campers may choose to bring their own personal care assistant (PCA) or elect to receive care from a camp counselor. Those coming with their own PCA only need to pay an additional $250 which covers the PCA’s room and board.  
  • Independent camper personal care levels:
    • Level 1: Independent in all aspects of personal care
    • Level 2: Able to feed self but requires support for dressing, toileting & mobility
    • Level 3: Totally dependent for all self-care, but independent in navigating mobility
  • A Camp nurse is on duty to administer medications and address routine healthcare issues.

Therapeutic Activities

Language Groups: Campers are grouped according to age and abilities:

  • Beginning AAC device users: able to engage in play activities and use their device to answer questions using a 1 or 2 symbol response. 
  • Intermediate users: able to form 3-4 word messages.
  • Advanced user: capable of more complex syntactic abilities and need to address critical thinking and/or pragmatic language goals. 

Therapeutic Recreation Activities: Recreational activities are provided to all campers & siblings throughout the day, and to all families in the evening. These developmentally-appropriate activities are provided by camp counselors under the supervision of recreational therapists and speech therapists to help carry over learning goals. Activities include but are not limited to arts & crafts, swimming, sports, social games, nature activities, music, and more.

Registration & Fees

Camp fees are divided into two components: a therapy fee and a camp fee. The therapy fee covers activities that promote AAC device use.The camp fee includes room and meals, bedding, use of the camp’s facilities and personal care staff for independent campers.

Please note:

  • Children’s Specialized Hospital does not bill insurance companies for this camp fee.
  • Families must submit a School/Agency Contract Form if a third party agency plans to pay the fees.
  • Camperships (financial assistance) are available based on demonstrated need. Contact CampChatterbox@childrens-specialized.org to request financial support.

Registration

Registration for Summer 2019 will open January 2-April 2, 2019.

  • New campers must submit applications prior to April 2, 2019. Campers will be notified of acceptance within 30 days of application submission.
  • Click here to apply to be a new camper
  • Click here to register an AAC Camper
  • Click here to register a camper in the independent program
  • Click here to register a family member

Camp Staff and Professional Training Opportunities

Camp Counselors

Counselors may apply to work at one of three levels of service:

Level 1 Counselors: work in conjunction with the therapy staff during daily therapy activities. They play a lead role in planning the evening activities so that campers maximize the use of their devices.  They also assist in transporting campers to activities, leading the campers in songs, assisting with serving and clean-up for meals, and participating in the talent show. 

Level 2 Counselors: support the needs of campers in the Independent Camper Program who require minimal care for their Activities of Daily Living (ADL’s). They provide some assistance with feeding, dressing, and toileting. They are also actively involved in recreational and social activities.

Level 3 Counselors: assist campers who require total care for their ADL’s, which includes dressing, toileting and feeding.  They participate in the range of camp along with their assigned camper(s).

Request and submit a Counselor Application to CampChatterbox@childrens-specialized.org.

AAC Fellow Program

Camp Chatterbox provides a specialized AAC Fellow Program which targets professionals seeking to enhance their skills in the application of technology to children with severe communication disabilities. Speech-Language Pathologists, Special Educators, and other professionals working in the field of AAC may apply.  Preference is given to candidates who have had some experience in working with children with physical disabilities using AAC systems. Applicants should be flexible, have lots of stamina, be a team player, and possess a sense of humor and adventure. All participants will receive full accommodations during camp and a certificate of attendance documenting up to 40 Professional Development hours.

Request and submit AAC Fellow Application to CampChatterbox@childrens-specialized.org.