There are many everyday activities that we often take advantage of being able to easily do. For some, these simple tasks are difficult challenges.
Camp Achieve is a day camp for children with autism. Founded eight years ago, Camp Achieve helps provide a safe environment and development activities for children with autism and has been in residence at Ball State for the last five years.
When Camp Achieve heard that the Music for All Summer Symposium Percussion Division campers and staff would be using Burris Hall, where they are currently located, they connected with DJ Corchin, Percussion SWAG, to see how the two organizations might work together.
On Friday, DJ and another SWAG, Keegan Ruebling, asked student camper Brianna Brodeur to help them show these students of Camp Achieve the magic of the snare drum.
As they drummed away, they invited the kids and the Camp Achieve staff to feel the music, clap and dance away.
I spoke with camp director Storey Snyder, who's been with the camp since its beginning, who told me that she was very anxious about putting such loud instruments in front of many children with sensory sensitivities, but because it was such a welcoming, safe environment and DJ made sure to tell the kids that there would be a beginning and end to the sound, they responded more positively than she could have hoped.
"Many of these children are pulled into therapy sessions during school so they often miss out on music and the arts. This opportunity allows our kids to experience something new and learn how to tolerate challenges, such as loud noises, that they often struggle with."
The children were singing, laughing and the pure joy on their faces was something I had never experienced before; it was priceless.
Music for All Summer Symposium camper, Brianne Brodeur, took the time after this fun session to chat with me about her experience teaching children with autism outside of the camp.
"Society is often unaccepting of children and adults with autism because it is something that can't be seen externally," said Brianne. "People chalk up sensitivies and struggles of those with autism to bad behavior and kids are often bullied by their peers."
I could feel the passion Brianne felt for these children and was moved by the amount of compassion she had for them.
"Activities like this, using music and helping them do more "normal" things, is not only be beneficial to them, but to others who do not have autism so they can become more aware and bridge the gap of understanding that needs to be filled," Brianne concluded.
At the end of the session, the kids gave DJ a book they made based off of books of his that are in their classroom. Their funny "happy" faces and "happy cat" faces almost moved me to tears because it helped me see how these kids didn't see autism as something they should hide or be ashamed of, and neither should anyone else.
Thanks to Camp Achieve for letting us spend time with your amazing campers and see the world just a little bit brighter, even if just for a moment!
To learn more about DJ Corchin's children's books, please visit http://www.djcorchin.com/.