Enriching the Lives of Chronically Ill Children and Their Families

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The Woodlands Foundation_The Early Learning Institute

At teli, we provide Early Intervention to children from 0 to 3 years of age.   Over our years of service, many of the children we care for are children with chronic illness or disabilities.  One of the largest challenges facing these children and their families is how these children can experience fun, in a safe environment that allows them to step out of their numerous therapy and medical care appointments and gives them a chance to just be a kid.  Where can they leave the stress behind and enjoy their childhood?

We often have that question asked by families to whom teli has provided support.  The Woodland’s Foundation in Wexford, PA is a place that can provide a wonderful opportunity for children with chronic illness to explore unique experiences in a safe and fun environment!

Enriching Lives

The Woodlands Foundation is an organization with a mission that is focused on enriching the lives of children and adults with disability and chronic illness. Jesse Solomon, Director of Programs at the Woodlands Foundation, explains, “We provide a variety of enrichment programs for children as well as adults that enables them to explore social, cultural and recreational activities while developing friendships with other children and our staff. It is all about the experience!”

Providing Respite Through Unforgettable Experiences

Providing experiences as a respite from daily therapy sessions and medical appointments is key to the programming for children at the Woodlands.  Cub Club , an introductory camp for children from 6-12 years of age is  available on alternate Saturdays  during the school year from  9am to 4pm. Additionally, a special weeklong camp is available during the summer months. Children attending these programs may have diagnoses of cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, as well as autism spectrum disorder.  The day camps enable the children and their families to begin to have exposure to time away from home in a safe environment.

Letting Kids be Kids!
The Woodlands Foundation_The Early Learning Institute

“Our campers interact with our counselors, all of whom are college students pursuing careers in the health field. These young people become close mentors to the children, providing all the care and support needed from providing meds, helping with activities of daily living along with engaging them in fun activities,” notes Jesse.  “With their counselors, they are able to explore our spacious 52 acre site, specially designed for children with special needs to be barrier free  and enable kids to be kids.”
The Woodlands campus has been retrofitted so that campers can experience their environment like many of them have never experienced before.  Children are thrilled to be able to ride a horse, travel on a zip line or explore the woods via a wheelchair accessible Nature Trail and toast a marshmallow at a cozy campfire. Campers can also engage in archery, enjoy splashing in an indoor pool or try their hand at golf!  “At the Woodlands it is all about the possibilities!” shares Jesse.

Fun and Friends, a Great Combination!

An enormous part of the experience is socialization for children that may feel isolated in their family environments. With the help of the counselors, they are able to interact with other children and participate in social activities. Being with other children enables them to “practice” socialization skills such as how to start a conversation with someone you’ve just met as they begin to build friendships over the long term.

How Kids and Parents Feel About Cub Club

Children spending time at the Woodlands are able to take a step back from all the stressors of their everyday life. Jessie shares one comment from a camper: “One camper expressed to me: “At the Woodlands, I can be myself and meet other kids just like me!”

Parents reaction to the camp is “Wow! This is such a positive experience in a process that has been more overwhelming than supportive, “notes Jesse.”Parents must navigate so many hurdles to help their child from establishing the initial diagnosis and finding the proper medical care to, exploring resources  to working to devise an Individual  Academic Program (IAP).   When they come to the Woodlands, they relish in the fact that their child “just gets to be a kid,” notes Jesse.

Interesting in learning more? Visit Woodlands Foundation to gather more information about their programming.

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