Special populations coordinator Lori Koplin said development of social skills in children with special needs is paramount to their success.
It's in the name.
The Social Squad, a summer club for kids 16 and older, meets at the Nova Community Center in Ormond Beach, bringing an opportunity for kids with special needs to participate in activities and socialize with one another.
Special populations coordinator Lori Koplin has only had one job in her lifetime that did not involve helping people with special needs.
“I like the innocence that they keep,” she said. “They have love for everybody. It doesn’t matter who you are, they are excited to see you. I also like seeing their growth and change.”
She had been working in an exceptional student education or ESE class at a DeLand middle school when she applied for Camp T-Rec, short for therapeutic recreation, at the community center in 2005. She was hired and currently runs the year-round program which has a reach of approximately 200 children.
Koplin believes that the development of social skills in children with special needs is paramount to their success. The camps offer individual activities such as drawing and painting but also group projects that require communication and interaction. Camper John Hearn is an example of the potential benefits derived from attending the special populations camps. In his 20 years as a camper, his communication has gone from non-verbal to carrying on conversations while helping the coordinator keep on-task. After Hearn had aged out of school, the Lunch Bunch program was created for him and others in the same position to consort. Meetings are held Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. during the school year.
Tony LeCates kept his friends entertained while they painted on tiles and drew various animals. He was waiting to make a lava lamp with the coordinator’s assistant Coral Long.
“I’m here to hang out with my friends,” LeCates said. “But I’m also waiting for the action.”