For Kids With Special Needs, Summer Camp Isn't Out of Reach

Cohen said that Tourette's isn't widely discussed at camp because he doesn't want the summer to be an extended "therapy session," but that kids bring up their personal challenges associated with the syndrome on their own.

"Half of our volunteers have Tourette's and so these kids see the adults who are successful in life and good people and learn that they can do that too," said Cohen. "Or they'll see other kids and say, 'Oh wow, I have that tic too. I didn't know you had it!'"

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, three out of every 1,000 children between the age of 6 and 17 in the United States have been diagnosed with Tourette syndrome. And it is three times more common in boys than in girls, according to the CDC.

As for the camp's name, Cohen said that it is a tribute to the children who make the camp possible, as well as the sense of humor that is somewhat required for those who live with Tourette's.

When he was naming the camp, Cohen said, "I just thought, 'Well, all our campers are going to twitch and shout, so that's why we're camp Twitch and Shout.'"


For the past 15 years, a campground in Bryson, N.C., has been invaded by approximately 35 eager kids, between the ages of 8 to 17, who aren't willing to let their amputations stop them from having a true summer camp experience.

"These kids are able to see that they're not alone and that there are many, many things that are possible, from physical activities to the interpersonal side," said Missy Wolff-Burke, a licensed physical therapist who founded and the Adventure Amputee Camp.

"Because some of our volunteers also have amputations there is this kind of spontaneous mentoring that happens when a child looks at an adult and says, 'Oh, I can be married too' or 'I can have a job one day,'" said Wolff-Burke.

Besides a $25 application fee, camp is entirely free thanks to outside donations and fundraising.

Wolff-Burke said that many children have had to undergo amputation as a result of disease, birth defects or traumatic injuries, but that all are surprised to see how much they are still capable of doing.

"They do it all: white water rafting, water skiing, high ropes courses, tennis, bicycle riding," she said.

According to Wolff-Burke, children each summer are overheard saying how much of a life-changing experience their time at camp has been.


At Camp I-Thonka-Chi in Meridian, Texas, kids find that no matter how deformed traumatic burns have left parts of their bodies, nobody cares or notices.

"The burn camp is an opportunity to be around other kids who are going around the same things, dealing with fears and questions and body image issues," said Donna Crump , the camp's manager of physical therapy.

"They work out together what to do when someone is staring at them or when someone you're dating sees their scars," says Crump.

Sixty-five campers attend the camp's one week session annually, said Crump, who offers the camp free of charge. To qualify for Camp I-Thonka-Chi, which translates in Choctaw to "a place that makes one strong or fearless, not afraid to face life," campers must be between 6 to 18 years old and have to have spent time in a hospital as a result of a burn injury.

Burn injuries range in severity, said Crump. Some campers have burns that cover only 10 percent of their body while others have had 80 to 90 percent of their body burned as well as amputations.

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