The power of Camp Chit-Chat

Two boys hug

Ten-year-old Jayden confidently stood in front of his peers and led show-and-tell, showing off his pet snails from home. You would never guess that just five short weeks earlier, he would have cowered at the thought of public speaking. 

Jayden, like all of the campers at NAU’s Camp Chit-Chat, has a communication disorder. In his case, two disorders. 

Camp Chit-Chat, which just wrapped up its second camp season, was designed with children like Jayden in mind. But the goal of the camp is two-fold. 

“We wanted to provide children with communication disorders a summer camp experience where they could take part in traditional summer camp fun while also working on building their communication skills in a practical and motivating environment,” said Angela Rockow, NAU clinical educator and supervisor and director of Camp Chit-Chat. “Simultaneously, the camp emphasizes the training of graduate clinicians assigned to provide these campers with these rich camp experiences in conjunction with therapeutic services. Graduate clinicians have the opportunity to grow their knowledge and skills with the pediatric population who present with a wide variety of communication disorders under close supervision.” 

For three days a week, campers between the ages of 5 and 13 years old participated in a variety of games, activities and exercises, all designed to boost their communication skills. After a full day of water play, relay races, outdoor games, circle time, stories and of course, snacks, they would engage in one-on-one therapy with their assigned clinicians to help overcome a variety of communication disorders including receptive and expressive language deficits, childhood apraxia of speech, phonological disorders, stuttering, dyslexia and deafness. 

NAU graduate clinicians who hosted Camp Chit-Chat

“NAU’s graduate clinicians gain the real-life experience of planning and executing a large-scale program such as a camp while also growing their clinical skills in the area of pediatric communication disorders. Children and families from all over the Flagstaff community benefit from their enrollment in Camp Chit-Chat in that the children continue to hone their communication and learning skills during and long after the summer camp.”  

Second-year master’s student Julia Tomasulo was one of 12 graduate students to work at the camp. It’s experiences like this that brought her to NAU in the first place. 

I was drawn to NAU by the supportive environment and academic excellence of NAU’s Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders (CSD),” she said. “I was also interested in the department’s on-site clinic that promotes hands-on learning related to this field under direct supervision of the department’s faculty.” 

Tomasulo was assigned to be Jayden’s clinician and worked closely with him throughout the summer, helping build his communication skills and confidence while getting the hands-on experience that brought her to NAU. Her favorite camp moment? When Jayden’s significant progress earned him a promotion to Junior Camp Counselor, made official by a badge she made herself that he proudly donned.

“There is nothing more rewarding than seeing your client make progress toward their goals, especially in aspects of social communication. These experiences reassure us that we are in the right field and that we have a strong academic foundation to provide evidence-based, client-centered services!”

NAU Communications