Big Mouth Camp 2012 is over – and I hope a fabulous time was had by all!
Big Mouth Camp is a camp for students who use speech generating devices, their families and lots of other people! I started Big Mouth Camp in 2003 after the Victorian government began funding speech generating devices for school aged students but didn’t provide any increase in therapy or other supports. My idea was for Big Mouth Camp to be a place for students to come along and get some intensive help – and for them to bring their families and other support people (e.g. learning support officers or teachers) so that they could better support the devices once the students were home again.
9 years later Big Mouth Camp continues. This year we had students who use AAC from Queensland, New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory, Victoria, Tasmania and also one from New Zealand. The camp was attended by nearly 100 people in total – 15 families, some support staff from schools and all the fabulous volunteers without whom Big Mouth Camp wouldn’t be a reality. Big Mouth Camp is staffed completely by volunteers, including myself. It constantly amazes me that so many amazing people are so generous with their time!Each morning the camp separates into 3 streams – small therapy groups for the students who use AAC, information sessions for the parents/school staff and a program for the siblings. In the afternoons and evenings we all do activities together. This year the theme was Harry Potter so we had a range of activities including potions class, charms class, Quidditch and Care of Magical Creatures.
The camp is a huge amount of work and has been the main thing I have been working on for the last couple of months in my spare time – which explains the absence of blog posts and reviews! However, the feedback has been amazing again this year and every moment spent on camp is worth it for that alone – although the huge smiles throughout camp are also well worth seeing.
Firstly, the fabulous committee Charlene Cullen, Helen Tainsh, Fiona Beauchamp, Siôn Gough Hughes and Katie Lyon. Each of these people attends camp but also puts in lots of work before camp as well – preparing activities, organising equipment, working with speech pathology students, packing equipment and calling in favours. Thanks guys!
Big thanks to the Cerebral Palsy Education Centre who auspice the camp. And also to Spectronics who lend us equipment and support and, of course, Cha and Katie. This year, Liberator also helped out with equipment and by sending along Merrin. ComTEC also loaned us equipment and one of their Occupational Therapists, Trina, came along to help out.
Speech Pathology students attended from La Trobe University, Charles Sturt University and James Cook University. Sarah, Michelle, Meryl, Megan, Jordy, Jemma, Erin and Beth – you were all fabulous. Thanks for coming along guys and we hope to see you in future years!
The incredible Meredith Allan came along once again as our mentor. Meredith has been to three camps now – and this year stepped in at the last minute when our original mentor, Nick, was sick. Nick – we hope to see you next year. Meredith – you are a legend xx.
The staff working with the siblings were also great – many of the siblings asked to come back even if their brother or sister who uses AAC didn’t get a place next year! Jessica, Peter, April, Sian, Kaya and Beth – you did a really fabulous job. Kaya – thanks again for being such a good sport and being the golden snitch in the Quidditch match! Jess – thanks for organising the sibling program – it was brilliant. And Peter – thanks for all the extra running around you do before, during and after camp – your help is invaluable as always.
And Big Mouth Camp definitely wouldn’t be the same without the incredible Disco Dave – who also doubled as Sensai Dave this year. Thanks for coming along David – and we all live in awe (and fear) of what you will do for the disco next year!
And we really couldn’t do Big Mouth Camp without all the therapists and others who come along and donate their time. Our speech pathologists, Pariya Behnami, Lauren Chan, Hannah Lee-Archer, Gayle Porter, Katherine Sanchez, Ellie Middleton, Chris Morris, Helen Tainsh, Charlene Cullen and Katie Lyon; occupational therapists Naomi Fink, Trina Phuah, Fiona Beauchamp; our sole physiotherapist, Matt Yates; and the very talented Annie Rose McMahon who defies categorisation. Sorry for making you handle wild animals (Care of Magical Creatures), drink butter beer and get your faces painted. You are all great therapists and very good sports – I am so grateful.
And a huge thanks as always to, my lovely husband, who fundraises so that the camp can be a reality, does our website and then comes along as our Master of Ceremonies. Siôn – you are my rock. And you also look pretty good covered in cake and icing! Siôn and April were also responsible for the camp photos and videos this year – thanks for making us look good!
And the final thanks has to go to the Melbourne Welsh Church for funding the camp – we appreciate it more than we can say. We’re also looking forward to coming along to the Big Mouth Camp church service.
And that’s all the thank-yous. And I’m excited about Big Mouth Camp 2013 – Pirates! Look lively there – aargh! And for those who are interested, Sion and Ellie have both already started researching their costumes!