Thursday, October 10, 2013

OUCARES Summer Film Camp 2013

Did you know that the 8th annual OUCARES Summer Film Camp took place in mid-August?
 To end a long and productive summer, Joey Travolta brought his Inclusion Film Camp back to Oakland University for the 8th year.  Joey and the crew spent ten weeks this summer on the road hosting inclusion film camps all over the country.
Joey was introduced to the autistic community when he mentored a young man with autism, Taylor Cross, when he did “Normal People Scare Me” which is a documentary about autism that Joey produced.
After the documentary was released, Joey was contacted about bringing his experience to children on the autism spectrum in Michigan.  
“It all started with Oakland University,” Joey said.   Back in 2005, Joey brought an inclusion film camp to OU, the first place outside of California.
An objective of the camp is to make a short film but it’s not the only objective.
“(Filmmaking) works as a tool for social skills and communication skills.  It’s not about the film making it is more about the process.”
While many people on the autism spectrum struggle with socializing, the campers at Joey’s inclusion film camp meet like minded, creative individuals.
 “All these kids make friends for life,” said Joey.  “So many of them are now in their 8th year and they didn’t have friends before.  They didn’t have play dates…they now have a social life.”
Dani Bowman, an eighteen year old animator with autism, returned to Oakland University for the second time to teach animation as well as the aspects of storytelling.  Dani also employs those on the autism spectrum through her small animation company, Powerlight Studios, which she started when she was 11.
“I just want my students to become more successful like I am and they will find their own talents,”  said Dani.
Dani is just one of many talented individuals with autism who Joey employs.  He is skilled at discovering talent and nurturing that talent throughout his programs.
 “You never know what will come out of their mouths,” said Travolta.   Joey’s crew is skilled in turning those moments into humor for use in the film.
Travolta said that he is a pretty sarcastic person in a humorous way, not in a mean way.  “I think after a couple weeks with me they get the sarcasm.”
Chris Travolta, Joey’s nephew, worked with the film camp for the first time this year.
“I had a wonderful time…and I learned a lot,” said Chris.
A handful of campers who have participated with the program for all 8 years are now 19, so they are too old to come back next year.  Now it’s time for college and job searching.
 “When you go out for a job interview you have to be able to tell a story about yourself and why it’s important that they hire you,” said Joey.
Joey hopes that by learning the film process, the campers gain life skills along the way that could assist them in finding employment and living independently.
“Storytelling is an important skill set to go out into the world with,” said Joey.

OUCARES Summer Day Camp Program

Did you know that OUCARES offers summer programs to teach life skills to children and teens on the autism spectrum?
For six weeks this summer, a small group of children and teens on the autism spectrum participated in a day camp program at Meadows Elementary School in Avondale.  Campers learned life skills and made life long bonds.
 “What I’ve liked the most is watching the friendships that have formed,” said Kristin Ashley who worked on the staff for this program.  “Campers are making arrangements outside of camp to meet up with each other again.”
There were three summer camp sessions throughout this summer.  The first theme was the universe, the second theme was family, and the third theme was mythology.  Campers were also exposed to the community, visiting a local Meijer, a Walgreens, and the Detroit Zoo among other places.
“We wanted them to have a better understanding of what jobs were out there for them,” said Ashley. “So each place we went to we kind of touched on different jobs and the training needed…just being able to function independently in their adult life.”
Campers also learned valuable social skills so they could handle conflict in an appropriate manner.
“We’ve done a lot of work this summer in handling anger and frustration,” said Ashley.
During the last session of the program, campers and staff brainstormed together, creating the script for their mythology skit.  The creativity of the campers was evident as well as some great group dynamics.
“When they started this, they were silent and two (campers) were just mad and they wanted nothing to do with it. So (we have seen) a big improvement over where they started,” said Ashley.
Midway through the day after lunch, the social skills instructor Amy Pecktol held an activity.  Campers and staff would pass a ball of yarn from one camper to another, each holding onto the string after answering the same question: “What were you thinking about on the first day of camp?”  Answers ranged from meeting to people to cooking tacos.
By the end of that session, a shape was made with the string.  After cutting the string, each camper was given a piece of the string as a talisman, carrying the memories from camp.
During each day, the campers would all participate in cooking a meal for everyone.
“Everybody really enjoyed the cooking, said Bryan Haffner, who worked on the day camp staff.  “Maybe after they have learned some basic knowledge here they can take it home and work with their parents and be able to take some responsibility in the kitchen with their family.”
Teacher Krystal Renton worked as a staff member with the day camp as well.
“It’s been a really great summer,” said Renton.
As the camp ended, enthusiasm was shown from the campers about attending the program again next year.
 “Everybody has had gains in their own way,” said Haffner.  “I hope they have social confidence when they return back to school and their day-to-day lives.”