Julie Billiart School in Lyndhurst develops ‘Beyond Camp’ for summer training
Julie Billiart, a Cleveland diocesan school sponsored by the Sisters of Notre Dame, serves special needs children and is one of only 12 schools nationwide to receive the prestigious Innovations in Catholic Education Award from the national publication, Today’s Catholic Teacher.
The ICE award is in its 19th year. Today’s Catholic Teacher magazine is a national publication devoted exclusively to the interests of teachers and administrators in Catholic schools nationwide.
Julie Billiart’s “Beyond Camp” is a four-week summer program that provides social skills training for students while also combating summer learning loss, which is a significant problem for those with learning disabilities.
Principal Jodi Johnston said the program was a collaborative effort of two of the school’s educators. “It is designed to build on things the students learn during the school year and are then able to practice over the summer,” she said, describing the first-of-its-kind program.
A significant element of the camp is community experiences since many children with autism and social delays have few community activities due to meltdowns, difficulty with overwhelming sensory input, difficulty understanding what is expected of them or being unable to interpret social cues. The camp addresses each issue through direct teaching, social stories, visual cues and other therapies. The students are able to engage in otherwise inaccessible activities such as field trips to the community pool, a trampoline park, the zoo, hiking at a land reserve, a baseball game, a water park and interacting with animals at a farm.
The award will be presented later this month in San Diego, California at the annual convention and exposition of the National Catholic Educational Association.