Skills blossom during summer

Enrichment: While enjoying the activities of a traditional camp, dyslexic children at Camp Glencoe, TopSide Summer Program and Camp Jemicy get the extra help they need to continue their learning through the summer.

July 25, 1999|By JoAnne C. Broadwater | JoAnne C. Broadwater,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Camp Glencoe is known for its midnight Super Soaker battles. Campers at TopSide Summer Program love the sailing. At Camp Jemicy, the kids have a blast with art, drama, crafts and dance.

But the main attraction at these three Baltimore-area summer camps is the tutoring.

"I want to keep up my skills for school, improve my reading and have fun," says Steven Bascietto, 13, who is enjoying his second summer at Camp Glencoe, a six-week, Sunday-through-Friday overnight camp held at St. Timothy's School in Stevenson for children ages 9 to 13. "I don't really like doing the work but I know when I go back to school it will really help me a lot."

Fellow camper Emily Naumburg, a 12-year-old in her third year at Camp Glencoe, agrees. "I want to learn and I like to keep up my pace of learning. Sometimes in the middle of camp I get tired of the work but I just tell myself: `I'm learning, I'm learning, I'm learning.' "

For children at these three camps, maintaining academic skills during the summer months is especially important. Most are dyslexic, and all of them find reading and writing to be a challenge. If they take a long break from academics, their return to school in the fall may be particularly difficult.

"Repetition is so important for children with dyslexia that if they stop they really do lose a lot," says Amanda Doud, director of TopSide Summer Program, a six-week day camp in Roland Park for children ages 6 to 13 sponsored by the Odyssey School.

"Summer is the best time to work with dyslexic students," adds Mark Westervelt, 48, founder and former director of Camp Glencoe, sponsored by the Jemicy School. Jemicy also sponsors Camp Jemicy, a day camp for children ages 6 to 9, held at the school's Owings Mills campus.

"When you can work in isolation on a child's areas of need -- reading, writing, spelling -- the gains are remarkably quicker and more successful," Westervelt says. "If the summer is used properly, children's skills will blossom."

Nationwide, about 20 specialty camps offer dyslexic children the multisensory tutoring they need to become competent readers and writers. In addition to typical camp recreational fare -- swimming, hiking, tubing and indoor rock climbing -- campers also receive daily individual or small group tutoring in reading, writing and spelling as well as comprehension and math, if needed.

Affiliated with private schools for dyslexic children, the local camps range in price from $1,500 to $4,300 for half-day, all-day and overnight programs. Enrollment is limited and the number of applicants often exceeds openings. Parents may contact Jemicy or Odyssey Schools as early as January about next summer's camps. Limited scholarships may be available.

For some of the children, summer camp is a continuation of the specialized teaching they receive during the year. For many others who are unable to attend these schools because of full enrollment or financial reasons, the camps offer intensive tutoring that will help them during the year at a traditional school.

"Summer camp is maintenance for the children," Westervelt says. "It's a very concentrated inoculation of skills, a dose of what is needed to understand the printed language."

In addition to the academic gains, the summer camps also provide a much-needed boost to self-esteem, says Sam Merrick, camp director at Camp Glencoe.

"We really try to hit on the positive," Merrick says. "We make a full-out effort to boost their self-esteem through cooperative games and activities and to recognize their strengths in academics, art, sports and creativity."

Self-esteem building is important at all of the camps, Westervelt says.

"The children know they're bright but they can't keep up," Westervelt says. "When they come together in a group for the summer they begin to recognize their talents. They realize that they are very capable students and with that they're so much more available for learning."

Westervelt's 13-year-old daughter, Sarah, who has attended Camp Glencoe, said:

"Going to camp makes you feel better about yourself. You can read better and you don't feel embarrassed about public reading. Camp helps you pronounce words and get your confidence up."

Mark Westervelt has been involved in summer camps for dyslexic children much of his life. He has worked as a counselor and tutor, and as a child he was a camper at the first summer camp to offer specialized tutoring for dyslexic children -- Camp Mansfield in Underhill Center, Vt.

His grandmother, Helene C. Durbrow, started the camp in 1946. A pioneer in developing teaching strategies for dyslexic children, Durbrow died in May at age 98. Camp Mansfield, which closed in 1962, was a nationwide model for camps for dyslexic children.

Pub Date: 7/25/99

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