The children and adolescents who attend Altitude are sweet, funny, creative, engaging, and talented. They may excel in many areas including art, music, academics, theater, science or technology, and under “the right circumstances” they may be indistinguishable from their peers. While their interests and personalities may vary, the common thread is that that all of our campers experience social cognitive challenges that impact their perceptions of social situations and affect their ability to develop and maintain friendships, participate in shared conversation, or feel comfortable when they are with other children their age.
Although not all of our campers have a formal diagnosis, many have been characterized as having a verbal or nonverbal learning disability, ADHD, Asperger’s, PDD-NOS, or high functioning autism. At Altitude, we see the whole child, not just a label. Our admissions process is personalized and comprehensive.
Prerequisites: In order to be successful at camp, an Altitude camper will be able to:
- Function within a ratio of 3 campers to 1 counselor in a group setting
- Exhibit language at a conversational level – though they may need some help initiating conversations, staying on topic, listening to others, switching topics, maintaining or ending conversations in a good way
- Complete daily living skills independently – however, at time they may require some prompts or reminders
Since each child is unique, the best way to find out if our program would be a good fit for a particular child is to complete our initial inquiry form.
Expectations: Altitude participants are motivated to be at camp and willing to participate in most activities with peers. They have some insight into their emotions and behaviors, and they are responsive to behavioral interventions. Our campers are ready to engage and practice or learn new skills, and they do not exhibit significant behavioral challenges.
At Altitude, we understand how difficult it can be to think about transitioning into the middle school and high school years; this transition marks the end of an era and the beginning of a new and exciting, but stressful time in a child’s life. It is with understanding about this pivotal time, combined with our knowledge of working with special children and their families, that we have created Altitude – a fun and enriching camp experience that provides participants with support in preparing for and navigating the journey that lies ahead.
The transition from childhood to adolescence and young adulthood is an exciting, dynamic, and challenging period of development for children (and their parents)! It is characterized by new opportunities, as well as increased academic, social, and emotional demands. Moving from elementary school to middle school and then to high school, the academic and social demands increase considerably. Academically, the focus moves from the concrete to include more abstract thinking. The application and integration of knowledge becomes more important than just memorization. In many schools, students are expected to transition to different classrooms independently and assume responsibility for organizing and managing materials and assignments. Larger reports and projects are assigned and, of course, there are the standardized tests, all of which require higher levels of planning and time management.
It is also at this stage that children’s bodies are changing as they experience puberty. It is a time of hormones and confusing emotions and a time during which they are trying to better understand themselves, develop their own identity, and figure out their place in the world, in relation to their families, but also their peers.
Socially, it is during the later years of elementary school and the beginning of middle school, that peer relationships become increasingly important in children’s lives. In addition, social demands escalate, and it becomes even more necessary for children to be able to engage in conversational exchanges, recognize nonverbal cues, realize who is a true friend, demonstrate self-awareness, identify social norms, and understand the unwritten rules of social relationships.
Navigating the Journey
These transitions and changes are stressful for all children – ESPECIALLY for those who experience social cognitive challenges, since it is a phase that calls into play many of the tasks that represent and define their differences.
This is why Altitude focuses on our participants’ from a developmental perspective. Our hope is that by providing our participants with a warm, understanding, fun and supportive learning environment, they will grow socially and emotionally, build self esteem, and develop the skills that will help them to more successfully navigate middle school, high school, and beyond.
Kirsten Jensen has been Altitude’s full-time, year-round director for the past 4 years. She is the primary point of contact throughout the intake process, hires staff and oversees all facets of the camp.
Kirsten received her B.A. from the University of California in Santa Cruz. She has more than 20 years of experience in working with families of children with special-needs.
Kirsten has been passionate about working with families of children with special-needs since her teenage years, and found her niche on the business side of this endeavor when she founded A Special Nanny in 2003, where she recruited nannies and one-to-one aides for families of children with special-needs. Her experiences also include tutoring students literacy using the Lindamood/Bell methodology, working as an ABA tutor, and working as a Special Education Coordinator for a private family.
Counselors and Lead Counselors:
Altitude provides a three-to-one camper-to-counselor ratio. Counselors are university and graduate students with a passion for working with children. Most of our staff are preparing for careers in psychology, education, special education, speech therapy or occupational therapy.
Our staff do not provide traditional “therapy”; however, they play a critical role in a program that integrates a therapeutic approach to traditional summer camp and community living.
At Altitude we have one clinician for every 25 campers. Clinicians have completed their education as Marriage and Family Therapists, or perhaps a Masters or Ph.D. in psychology. They may be working towards clinical hours for licensing, are just getting started in their careers, or work as School Counselors and are looking for a challenging and rewarding summer experience!