The Much-Loved RAD Camp Has Gone Virtual!
In 2014, RAD Camp held its first camp for kids with disabilities of all ages and, as they put it, they’ve never looked back. Their programs — overnight weekend and summer events held at the Irvine Ranch Outdoor Education Center in Orange County — are run by two moms and many, many other volunteers. (Each camper is paired 1:1 with a counselor; there are also medical staff onsite.) When the coronavirus pandemic hit, the people of RAD decided to go virtual — opening up their community to anyone across the country who wants to participate. Now, each week, members (and their parents) get emails with lists of adaptable activities and prerecorded videos that kids can engage in from the safety of their own home (and with the guidance of their parents). Check out their promo video here!
We caught up with Meghan Clem, RAD co-founder and Executive Director of Awesome (a.k.a. Development) to learn more about their mission to bring camp right to you and your family. In the new virtual format — known as RAD Club — parents and caregivers subscribe to a newsletter that arrives at the start of each month and lays out the entire month’s schedule of classes and activities. Along with the calendar, parents also receive instructions to adapt the activity to their child’s needs (more on that later) as well as a materials list. “We limit that list to items you’d already have around your household,” Meghan says. “We don’t want someone to have to jump on Amazon to order something so their child can participate.”
What virtual programs are available?
- In January alone, Meghan tells us they’ve offered a dance party, a game night, and breakout rooms to encourage socializing. Other activities on the docket include movie nights, karaoke, trivia, and more.
- Each month, there is one group hangout live on Zoom — the only event that’s not prerecorded. Meghan says that in their most recent live Zoom, each club member had a “spotlight moment” where they could talk about themselves and what they want out of the new year, allowing for “opportunities to shine and connect with each other” while remaining physically safe.
- Remaining January content includes a drama video that teaches improv, a cooking video, and a downloadable coloring sheet. The activities are different each month, and the February calendar will be released soon!
- Once you’ve subscribed and have access to RAD’s content library, you can search their archived content by topic if your child is especially interested in a certain type of activity (dance, games, art, etc.).
Adaptability and flexibility
- When parents receive the newsletter, they’ll see exactly when different videos and content will be released throughout the entire month. Meghan tells us that they outline all activities in advance so that members with autism can more easily frontload the information and navigate their options.
- In addition to an emailed list of events, RAD provides a visual support calendar for kids.
- “All of our activities are adaptable to different levels of abilities and skill sets,” Meghan says. This feature is especially important to RAD Club, since members of all ages participate in their activities (their last in-person camp was attended by individuals ranging in age from 4 to 69).
- Since age does not equate to ability, Meghan emphasizes, each activity or piece of content can be enjoyed by people of any age, based on whichever modifications (if any) you know your child needs.
- Every activity is accessible to every club member regardless of their specific disabilities. “The parent just needs to modify the activity based on recommended instructions and do the facilitating,” Meghan says.
- Each video or piece of content includes step-by-step guides to help the parent adapt the activity for their child based on specific disability accommodations. These instructional guides also have a visual component for people who work better with visual instructions.
The benefits of RAD
“People are fatigued with online school and teletherapy,” Meghan says. “These videos are meant to be fun and recreational.” She describes RAD as a tool that we can use to keep our kiddos interested and occupied while unable to participate in the kinds of activities they could before the pandemic. “You can be the parent and say, ‘I have all these fun activities for us to do this week,’ or even save all of the content for one weekend to have one special weekend,” Meghan continues. “It takes the guesswork and planning out of it for parents during a stressful time.”
- Through the live monthly Zoom, RAD is able to create community and connection for their members.
- Meghan shares that many parents expressed that their children were (understandably!) having difficulty processing the global pandemic; they didn’t understand why suddenly they could no longer go to group activities or visit their friends, assuming that they’d done something wrong and that isolation was a punishment. By regularly seeing excited, familiar faces in live Zooms or on checkup calls with staff, RAD members are better adjusting to an unprecedented reality.
- Parents get something out of it, too! Meghan says that parents of RAD members have been building their own friendships after meeting in the live Zooms and/or finding each other through RAD social media hashtags.
- RAD activities can often involve the whole family. Meghan mentions that this month’s game night activity was a “family game night” created so everyone at home can participate.
How do you sign up?
- Go here to sign up for RAD’s online programs.
- Once you subscribe, you’ll have access to the entire library of archived 2021 content in addition to each new monthly newsletter.
- You can pay monthly ($19.99/month) or pay the annual rate ($220) and get a month free.