Braille Camp - a hit for staff and students

RIDBC Braille Camp wouldn’t be possible without the generous and continued support from Hyundai Help for KidsRIDBC Braille Camp wouldn’t be possible without the generous and continued support from Hyundai Help for Kids

“It is the highlight of the year!”

That is how Tricia d’Apice, RIDBC Coordinator for Remote Services Vision Impairment describes the experience of planning, organising and facilitating the intensive, residential and educational Braille Camp.

Braille Camp is an optional activity for children with a vision impairment from around Australia who receive weekly Remote Services from the vision team at RIDBC. Using high quality videoconferencing technology, the service provides access to specialist support needed, irrespective of their location. “We have students represented from all parts of Australia” Tricia explains.

Despite being optional, it is a most eagerly awaited annual event amongst the students, “Braille Camp has been the most fantastic experience for our children. They look forward to it all year” recalls one parent.

When asked about the importance, Tricia is quick to share the role it plays for the students “Braille Camp builds on the weekly Remote Services lessons the students have throughout the year and provides a key foundation for their lessons ongoing”.

Perhaps the most important aspect is that the learning occurs in a collaborative and supportive environment allowing the students to learn from each other. The relationships built at camp allow the students to maintain existing relationships and build new ones. But it is not only the students who benefit – the camp is also attended by family members including parents and guardians, and siblings.

The isolation for families who have no one else in their community facing similar challenges can be daunting. The opportunity for children and families to meet and learn important skills allows them to share their experiences in-person where, for the week at least, geographic boundaries don’t apply.

“The camp is a great opportunity to add to the rapport that the students build with the staff, that we build with the families and that the students build with each other” says Tricia. This is echoed by the parents, one sharing “It was such a great opportunity for my daughter to meet other vision impaired kids and socialise. RIDBC has really encouraged her to develop relationships with other kids and families so that she feels comfortable and confident with her vision impairment”.

The very name ‘Braille Camp’ implies that a significant focus of the program is placed on improving the Braille literacy of the students, which Tricia says is essential for the students - “Braille literacy is as important to a person with a vision impairment as print is to is a sighted person”.

The program concentrates on the development of life skills, daily living skills, orientation and mobility. It is all achieved in a fun environment including: public transport excursions together with navigation activities; cooking lessons; science experiments; and sporting activities including goalball.

It would be remiss not to mention the significant amount of work undertaken by the RIDBC Remote Services staff, with months of preparation undertaken to ensure it is a success. Everything from creating the maps and instructions in Braille to the logistics of organising accommodation and activities. Tricia says “It is a significant amount of work, but very much worth it. We love doing it”. The final task of the staff is to assist the students with the creation of an ‘experience book’ which continues their Braille literacy learning but leaves them with the everlasting memories of their time together at Braille Camp.

RIDBC Braille Camp wouldn’t be possible without the generous and continued support from Hyundai Help for Kids. Without such support these opportunities would not be possible for the RIDBC families.

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