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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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NMSU holds camp for deaf and hard of hearing children

The Activity Center at New Mexico State University was filled with high spirits and cheerful faces the week of June 5-9 as children participated in games and activities that were part of the Lions Survivor Camp for deaf or hard of hearing children.

The camp gave children ages 5-13 of various communications styles the chance to develop skills in swimming, dancing, rock wall climbing, outdoor games and more. The annual camp is designed to improve the children's motor skills and recreational enjoyment in a developmentally appropriate way.

"The camp gives kids with disabilities an opportunity to come together and have fun under very trained supervision. They find out they are not alone, and they can try things they've never done before like ride a horse, or go swimming or bowling," said Timothy Ross, president of Las Cruces Sunrise Lions Club, the primary sponsor of the camp.

The children gathered each afternoon with smiles on their faces as they looked forward to swimming at the NMSU Natatorium or racing up the Rockwall. At the end of each day the children would participate in the "Survivor Challenge," a chance to test their new skills.

"Kids with disabilities and their families are provided a chance to do something they wouldn't normally do. Summer camp is great and I believe it is the utmost importance that all children get to experience it," said Scott Pedersen, director of the NMSU Adapted Physical Education program.

The camp is the only deaf and hard of hearing camp in the nation to welcome children with disabilities such as autism or Down's syndrome. Ross said the camp would like to eventually expand by allowing children of all disabilities to participate.

Jennifer Dahlgren, director of the camp, said it also is the only one to allow siblings of deaf or hard of hearing campers to participate.

"A large number of families with deaf or hard of hearing children don't learn sign language, and by allowing siblings to participate we can facilitate communication through play," Dahlgren said.

The camp doubled in size from last year with 24 children participating and seven staying overnight. This is the first year participants have been able to spend the night, which gave students from as far as the New Mexico School for the Deaf in Santa Fe the opportunity to participate. Pedersen hopes the camp will continue to grow by attracting participants from across New Mexico.

Counselors at the camp were NMSU Adapted Physical Education (APE) students and faculty, and student volunteers from the El Paso Community College Sign Language Program.

"I wanted to make sure that this camp was a learning environment for the students," Pedersen said.

Lions Survivor Camp is a program of NMSUAPE and sponsored by the Sunrise Lions Club. The Lions Club is the largest civic club in the world, and deals with sight, hearing and diabetes.

APE was brought to NMSU in 2003 by Pedersen and is defined as physical education that is as appropriate for a person with a disability as it is for a person without a disability. Pedersen is one of only two people in New Mexico certified in APE. He is hoping that will change by offering a new graduate minor in the field.

This is the third year Lions Survivor Camp has been held at NMSU.