Camp ALEC was inspired by Alec Cunningham, who never gave up and whose passion for learning was never extinguished. Due to Alec’s complex communication and physical needs, we often heard how challenging it was to teach him. Throughout the course of his education, we continually heard, “we don’t know what he knows.” Eventually, it felt as though the blame fell on Alec because he was “too difficult to teach.”
When Alec passed away unexpectedly in 2011, our dear friend Tina helped us to create this camp. We always wanted Alec to receive the education he deserved. Now, we’ve directed our passion toward educating as many teachers as possible so that they possess the tools to empower children like Alec with language and literacy. Under the direction of Drs. Karen Erickson and David Koppenhaver we are committed to providing children with evidence-based assessments and interventions that will ensure they make gains in reading and writing in their classrooms. This camp is an act of love for Tina and Gina. They volunteer their time to make this camp a success.
Camp ALEC began in 2014. Camp ALEC is held at Indian Trails Camp in Grand Rapids, MI. This unique camp is specifically designed for children with physical disabilities whose primary communication mode is AAC (augmentative and alternative communication). Camp ALEC is a week of learning together with adult educators and campers under the direction of Dr. Karen Erickson and Dr. David Koppenhaver. Campers spend 3 hours daily in literacy activities in a 1:1 setting. The rest of the day campers enjoy a typical camp experience which can include rock wall climbing, swimming, talent shows, camp songs, campfires…..while campers are enjoying camp experiences, the adult educators are in the classroom receiving further training in a Level 2 Literacy Academy with Dr. Erickson and Dr. Koppenhaver. At the conclusion of camp, families receive informal descriptive reports detailing the results of literacy assessments and trialed interventions to share with their educational teams back home. Educators will leave with a deep understanding of literacy instruction for complex children which they can share with their colleagues.
MEET DRS. KAREN ERICKSON AND DAVID KOPPENHAVER
Dr. Karen Erickson
Dr. Karen Erickson is the Director of the Center for Literacy and Disability Studies, and a professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill within the Division of Speech and Hearing Sciences. A part of Karen’s literacy work focuses on assessment and instruction for individuals with significant disabilities. Karen has helped to develop Tar Heel Reader, an online library of accessible stories for beginning readers. Karen, along with David Koppenhaver, continue to hold workshops and trainings using the four blocks whole to part assessment.
You can find Karen at: Center for Literacy and Disability Studies
Tina Moreno is a speech-language pathologist with experience in school, hospital and outpatient clinic settings. She is mom to Mateo, a cross country runner on his high school team who happens to be an AAC communicator. Tina is passionate about empowering individuals to live, learn, work and play in their communities.
Dr. David Koppenhaver
Dr. David Koppenhaver is a professor at the Appalachian State University for the Department of Reading and Special Education. David works with Karen Erickson researching the area of literacy for children with significant disabilities. David is co-founder of the Center for Literacy and Disability Studies at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill.
You can find David at: Dave's Literacy & Disability Site
Gina Cunningham is a former elementary school teacher. When her son Alec was born she “retired” from teaching to become a full time mom, cheerleader and advocate for Alec. With the help of her dear friend Tina, who coordinated with Karen and Dave, Camp ALEC became a reality. Gina is passionate about reaching AAC kids like Alec to become empowered through literacy and language. She believes all kids CAN learn, you just need the right toolbox. She is thrilled to be part of a camp that teaches adults within the school systems HOW to reach kids who use AAC.