Hey Reddit, my name is Adam and I just finished working at Camp Awakening, a program in Ontario that sends kids with physical disabilities and integrates them into summer camps!

This was not only my first time ever being at a summer camp, but also my first time working with disabilities.

It was an extremely challenging but rewarding experience and it taught me a lot about disabilities that most people have no idea about.

If you're curious to know more, just ask!




Comments: 181 • Responses: 29  • Date: 

Somebody_Brilliant151 karma

What was the most interesting way you solved someone's physical problem or most interesting accommodation you (or the camp) had in place?

Baggsy123185 karma

Hmm, probably the biggest problem we had to solve was to find the best way for them to navigate the terrain of camp and canoe trips as each person had a different answer, going up a big set of stairs was often a problem we faced.

Some we could carry them up, some had to find another way round, and we had to describe the staircase in good detail for any blind campers that wanted to navigate without assistance.

I_wanna_eat_bread134 karma

What’s your saddest experience?

Baggsy123473 karma

Probably learning that one of my campers was being taken care of by his grandfather his whole life because one night the parents asked him to babysit, they both left the house and never came back.

levonyan109 karma

How are you doing today?

Baggsy123128 karma

I only flew back home yesterday so super jet lagged actually thanks for asking, how are you?

Infinite3ntropy61 karma

Hey thanks for doing this! Hope you had a wonderful summer! I work as a recreation therapist and adaptive sports program coordinator in the US. What kind of adaptations did you guys make to your typical camp games and sports? Did you guys have any specific adaptive equipment that you thought was pretty cool? I always geek out over different AT!

Baggsy12376 karma

Thanks I hope you did too!

Surprisingly we didn't need to do a lot of adaptation, we learnt that early on. For example we played a big game of baseball with a group of able bodied kids against campers in wheelchairs, and we didn't have to change any rules, as long as they have control in at least one arm to swing a bat and catch, all we needed to do was push them. It was the same for most other things like tennis, basketball, hockey... Pretty much anything other than swimming or activities with lots of rough terrain required minimum adaptation.

We had one week where we rented sports wheelchairs and "sledge" hockey equipment (sledge hockey is way more fun than normal hockey).

zedkayen29 karma

Hey- Camp Awakening (the girls program at least) used to be inside my summer camp when I was a camper (The no longer existent Camp Gay Venture). I remember the kids of camp awakening being so separate from the rest of us, and even then thinking it would be so much more beneficial to everyone if it was more integrated. How does the camp work today?

Baggsy12330 karma

The girls program is at Camp Oconto now.

Over the last few years they've been focusing loads on integrating our campers with the other campers in the camp and how to do it.

So we've been trying to do lots of competitions with other cabins. We did a big baseball game on the second day of camp with fully abled campers and it went great.

We also involve them in the big camp events which apparently they didn't used to do.

nico87ca24 karma

Do kids with disabilities make fun of each other when in a group?

Baggsy12344 karma

If you're talking about playful banter, they do it just as much as any other kids would.

If you're talking about the kids making fun of each others disabilities, then they don't (apart from one guy who was an awful guy)

piadista22 karma

Thanks for this Adam!

Were there other competing things that you wanted to do and then settled at Camp Awakening? I'm wondering why you chose the kids with disabilities job rather than other stuff you may have been considering.

Baggsy12344 karma

I was always planning on working at a summer camp, it was always something I wanted to do.

I applied to a program that matches you with camps that it thinks you are suited for depending on personality, experience ect. Camp awakening was the first camp to contact me, at first I was super scared of the idea of working with disabilities as that was way out of my comfort zone at the time, but I decided to take a gamble and it paid off.

MishymooLoulou16 karma

I am a speech pathologist in the US and am curious if you were able to have experiences using augmentative alternative communication systems? If so, which ones did you find easiest to communicate with on their device?

Baggsy12312 karma

I'm sorry to disappoint but we didn't have any campers with augmentative speech this year.

CushyPolity15 karma

pineapple on pizza?

Baggsy12332 karma

It is the topping of the devil.

RabanoDOOM9 karma

Late to the party, but how do you go about effectively communicating with and helping the kids who, thanks to things like toxic parenting, bullying at school, personal frustration, etc., would develop seriously negative views regarding themselves or their disability? (I ask this as someone who grew up in that position and remember how much difficulty adults had talking to me)

Baggsy12315 karma

I think the problem with when most people interact with someone with disabilities, they tend to treat them overly kindly or ignore them altogether to avoid causing offense.

We had one kid who was extremely toxic the whole time, his parent doesn't care of him properly and expected us to listen to his every demand.

The key is patience. Patience and a positive attitude. Obviously there there's a line where you do need to tell them off, but generally it's better to reward kids for doing good than punish them for doing bad.

rad2themax10 karma

I think the most important thing is to treat them like people. Often people with disabilities are assumed to be like small children and mentally impaired. When I am in my wheelchair, the disrespectful and patronizing way I am treated is absolutely appalling. When I'm walking (with a leg brace, very short distances) I'm treated like a normal adult woman, but as soon as I'm in the chair people think I'm mentally handicapped.

Person first mindset is the most important.

Baggsy1235 karma

Exactly. People come with the mindset that someone in a wheelchair is also going to be mentally insane or something. Most people just haven't had any education on disabilities and are scared to even shake their hands. It's understandable when someone's had no or minimal interaction with someone with disabilities but at the same time their the same as any other person.

Chief25046 karma

Did any of the children with physical disabilities also have special needs such as being non-verbal? If so, how did you all handle he non-physical challenges?


I have an almost 4 year old son who uses a walker to get around and most likely will have a lifelong challenge with walking & standing up without assistance. I never really knew anyone with physical disabilities before. Now, I am so thankful when I see enough handicap parking spots or inclusive playgrounds that allow him all by himself to get up to the top of the slide so that he can go down.

I am so happy to hear that there are camps that focus on people with physical disabilities and inclusion. Someday I hope he gets to go to a camp like the one you attended. Thank you for spending your time at this camp and for helping to include these wonderful children in being able to experience a summer camp!

Baggsy1233 karma

Thanks so much, I loved doing it!

We only had one camper with speech problems. He had very weak muscles, including in his tongue, so pronouncing constanants was very difficult for him. We just had to listen carefully and be patient with him, other than that no other speech impaired kids.

Pod6666 karma

Hi Adam! What exactly is the process for becoming a camp counsellor at a camp for people with physical disabilities? Is there an age, experience or training requirement specifically?

Baggsy12313 karma


So I went through a program called camp Canada that matches people with camps that they believe you're suited for.

I couldn't tell you what the exact requirements/experience is needed for the job, but I had no previous experience working with disabilities prior to this job, the only official requirements are some certain swimming and lifeguarding awards and a mandatory staff training weekend before camp begins.

rad2themax5 karma

Hi! This is awesome, as a recently disabled adult, the lack of accessibility to social and fun events is disheartening, so I'm glad they have this for kids. My question is, do you have people with disabilities working alongside you? It's so important for everyone to have representation and role models, especially kids with disabilities. As a teacher, my students saw how horribly I was treated for being in a wheelchair by my admin and I've had to move to a new school because of it. I see so often programs to help people with disabilities, that don't involve people with disabilities. I'd like to support those that have disabled people involved and not just "taken care of". Just because my leg doesn't work so good, doesn't mean my brain doesn't.

Baggsy1235 karma

Oh definitely. There was a counselor last year who was disabled. We also hire a parasport coach for a few days each summer to teach kids to play lots of parasport s, our coach this year was actually a previous awakening camper!

19punchesman5 karma

What kind of activities did you do with the kids?

Baggsy12311 karma

We do every kind of activity that summer camps offer. So that means all the sports, climbing, overnight canoe trips, arts and crafts, water sports etc. There's a list of all the activities on the camp awakening website.

mactac4 karma

Hey I fly fpv drones (ones that you control by watching through goggles so you see what it sees). It's an amazing feeling as it literally feels like you are flying. Many times I have considered talking to camps like the one you are talking about, and seeing if they want me to come by and let the kids watch through the goggles. I thought it would be a cool thing for them, and a great experience - especially for the ones with mobility problems. Like, who DOESN'T want to fly, right?

What I wanted to know is:

- do you think this would be something that they would like?

- What is the best way to approach the camp??

-Are there any issues that you forsee (eg will they demand insurance, etc)

here's my channel so you can see the type of flying that I do and what it looks like:: http://www.youtube.com/mactacfpv


Baggsy1231 karma

Wow that's so awesome! Camp is always looking for new things so I would call up the camp or camps you're nearby to inquire. I think as long as there's no health and safety worries then they'll gladly accept!

It depends on the camp, but I doubt ours would demand insurance or anything like that you would be fine, my camp I think would definitely try and get you to come if you inquired them.

SillySlimes3 karma

You mentioned in a previous reply that a couple of the activities the kids are involved in take place on the water. How are you able to manage that and considering the danger water presents, what are some safety measures you take into account?

Baggsy1235 karma

So everyone is required to wear a life jacket for every water activity, including all the staff.

All staff at camp are also trained in waterfront first aid as a requirement.

I was surprised how easy they can do most water activity, the hardest part is transfering kids who can't walk into canoes/kayaks, especially when they are on the heavy side. Most wheelchairs can fold so they're easy to fit in canoes.

Lvvvvvv3 karma

Did you take them out of the comfort zone with cooking, competitions, etc? What was their feedback at the end?

Baggsy12318 karma

For most of them, 90% of what they do at camp is outside their comfort zone.

Overnight canoe trips are usually when they feel most out of their element. For some of them they didn't even think they were able to tie their own shoes, let alone set up tents, cook on a fire and take part in sports competitions, but we get them to do all of it, and for some of them, tying their shoe for the first time could be a life achievement, so you can imagine how they feel doing everything else.

briggs693 karma

Was there anything out of your comfort zone that you were never able to overcome due to the new experience?

Baggsy1234 karma

There were a lot of things out of my comfort zone to start with, having to shower, change and help kids who couldn't wipe certainly took some getting used to.

I got used to those things eventually, but the one things I could never overcome was brushing someone's teeth, that was honestly pretty gross but it's better than him not brushing his teeth for two weeks.

wheat_thin_lyfe3 karma

Why is it called awakening? Is the camp run by the canadian government and you are training them how to use robotic warfare?

Baggsy1235 karma

You got me. it's actually a secret mech training camp.

EarlZaps3 karma

Who was the most memorable kid you've had the chance to work with? And why?

Baggsy12310 karma

We had one really good kid in August who all the staff genuinely miss him cause he was so good. One of the best things a kid with disabilities who needs help with changing/toilet/shower, then cooperating with us is key. He was probably the most cooperative guy I've ever met in general.

There will always be some bad kids when you work at a camp but the good ones always remind us why we're doing this job in the first place.

aidopple2 karma

Kilcoo? I worked with Camp Awakening for a summer a few years ago!!!

Baggsy1233 karma

No way!! Small world!

FathrOfDragons1 karma

Do you have any problems relating to a drug addicted towel employee?

Baggsy12311 karma

Can't say I've ever met a drug addicted towel employee so who knows

Fausuto0 karma


Baggsy1234 karma

Oh god oh no

Eagle2061 karma

What was your favorite & most hated camp song/skit/tradition?

Baggsy1232 karma

My favourite was a skit where they jokingly did a terrible overused skit to start with and then do a bunch of cast celebration/thank yous, kinda hard to explain lol.

My least favourite thing was a tradition of doing camp songs after camp but the song sheet is in an area impossible for kids in wheelchairs to get to so our kids could never sing the songs.

suburban_hyena1 karma

Do you work with dogs?

Baggsy1232 karma

As much I'd love to, no we don't haha.

Futuristick-Reddit1 karma

Ah shoot, I had found out about Awakening this year and was actually debating whether or not to go. You seem like a cool guy; wish I did!

Okay, I've seen your opinion on pineapple pizza, but why?

Baggsy1231 karma

No worries there's always next year, I'll be returning since I loved it so much!

Pineapple on pizza killed my family. A reasonable person doesn't eat something like that.

SprooseMoose_0 karma

Would you consider doing a /r/roastme?

Baggsy1233 karma

Lol I was considering it honestly looking at my greasy photo

CallMeSugarbritches-9 karma

What's with the face?

Baggsy1235 karma

I know I look and feel super jetlagged in that photo. Might put it on r/roastme later lol.