Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Cue Camp Experience

Yet another cue camp has come and gone with memories that will last a lifetime. Cue Camp Virginia (CCVA) took place this past weekend, and unfortunately it was a reminder of how many cue camps I have missed over the past five years since I started graduate school in St. Louis and moved to Colorado. In fact, if it wasn't for the cue camp experience, I wouldn't have that strong sense of cuehood that I do today.

The cue camp experience is something one won't forget ever as there's nothing that comes close to it. This year at CCVA there were 7 year old kids learning to cue so they could cue to their infant siblings and adult cuers staying up until the crack of dawn Sunday morning because they just didn't want the fun to stop. The photos posted on the CCVA Facebook group speak for themselves in terms of the tremendous amount of positive energy and inclusivity, especially in regards to diverse modes of communication.

In a nutshell, CCVA is a microcosm of the greater Cued Speech community in terms of how strangers can easily forge new bonds with others and leave camp feeling like they're already part of a community, especially the children. Furthermore, native cuers count down the days to these cue camps as it's considered an annual tradition for these cuers to come together and bond over what seems a sleepless weekend of endless activities. Sunday morning is the most dreaded part of cue camp as it marks the fact that all good things must come to an end. No wonder some of the adult cuers stayed up until 6 am Sunday morning at CCVA. Yet, there's always next year.

Even though the purpose of the cue camp experience is to immerse oneself in a cueing environment, these cue camps make an effort to include everyone and provides access to American Sign Language interpreting. Even people who don't know how to cue volunteered at CCVA because of their experience feeling welcomed and included in the cue community. The cue camp experience truly is an inclusive experience for all.

The cue camp experience also serves to reinforce cuers' own sense of cuehood in realizing their own identities as cuers. For some cuers, their earliest memories include times spent at cue camp as toddlers. For others, the cue camp experience is part of their family legacy as they were basically the reason why their parents started new cue camps in their regions. In fact for some of us, we have come full circle as we have taken on the same roles as our parents in terms of cue camp organization and leadership.

The history of the cue camp experience is actually rooted deeply with the Cued Speech Family Camps at Gallaudet University. Basically at one point, these family camps began to become so large that new cue camps started emerging, with Maine and North Carolina establishing their own cue camps in the 1980's, which continue to this day.

Cue camps are different from other types of camps that service the deaf and hard of hearing in that they truly are for the entire family from infants to grandparents at different levels of fluency. Most camps I've seen have either focused on children or adults or a combination of both, but not necessarily with a focus on offering workshops on learning or improving fluency. It seems that the inherent nature of cue camps as "family camps" serve to reinforce bonds within the family unit as everyone is using or learning the same mode of communication with a lot of support from numerous cued language models.

The 25th anniversary of CCVA and the 30th anniversary of Spring Camp Cheerio (formerly known as Cue Camp Cheerio) will be taking place next year, so these camps certainly will have opportunities for attendees to reflect back on their experiences over the past three decades, especially when they first came to these camps with the intent of learning to cue or experiencing the cue community for the first time. I certainly hope to attend both camps (if not ALL next year...).  

Reflecting on more than two decades of memories from cue camps will make one nostalgic. As a consequence,  I've finally taken the initiative of starting what will hopefully be a new tradition in Colorado - the Cue Winter Carnival. The initial interest is already inspiring and serves as a reminder of how cuers look for any opportunity to get with other cuers and bond with each other while having a good time. The number of people signed up so far is amazing, considering that there are only six native cuers in the state of Colorado that I'm aware of.

2014 is looking to be a most excellent year for Cued Speech with so many cue camps taking place, including Chicago, New York, and Maryland. As use of Cued Speech continues to grow, it should not be surprising to see new cue camps or similar events popping up in other countries over the next decade. Check out the full list of cue camps on the NCSA website and mark the calendar for the cue camp closest to you!


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