Summer camp hosts difficult-to-understand children

By Doug Nadvornick, Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine

SPOKANE, Wash. – Children and parents from as far away as Texas and Canada are attending camp this week at Washington State University Spokane where the kids will work intently on their speech and language skills.

In its fourth year, Camp Candoo “started as one camp session with six children within a 100-mile radius and has expanded to two camp sessions with children from all over the U.S. and Canada,” said Amy Meredith, who created the camp with WSU Speech and Hearing Sciences colleague Nancy Potter.

One of last year’s campers was Bevvon Wanker-Chomthong, 7, from Spokane. His mother said he made great progress in his ability to speak.

“Before we came, he was only putting two or three words together and speaking at about a 2-year-old level,” Amanda Wanker said. “At Camp Candoo, instead of focusing on individual words, we started on functional phrases. So now he learns and practices sentences that he can adjust in different contexts and he’s much more intelligible.”

Meredith and Potter assess the children the day before camp starts. Then they supervise graduate students from their program who work with the kids in one-on-one and group settings.

The children, ages 4-8, have childhood apraxia of speech. That’s a motor disorder that makes it hard to say sounds, syllables and words in the right order. The children know what they want to say, but their brains can’t get their mouths and tongues to move correctly so they can be understood.

While the children play and work, their parents watch from an adjacent room via one-way mirror. Meredith said that helps parents bond and form their own support group.

“Camp Candoo was such a good experience for Bevvon,” Amanda Wanker said. “I think the high adult-to-children ratio was good for him. He felt like he had support from the adults who could back him up when he was trying to communicate.”

For reporters and editors:

Camp Candoo runs through June 30 in the Health Sciences Building on the WSU Spokane campus.

The co-directors have agreed to allow reporters and photographers to visit on the afternoons of June 28 and 29 to get video and audio footage and interview the faculty and graduate students. The camp directors will be available for interviews and we will try to find a parent willing to be interviewed on camera or for attribution.

Please contact Doug Nadvornick as much in advance as you can if you plan to attend so that we can make your visit as efficient as possible.


Amy Meredith, WSU Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences, 509-368-6709,
Doug Nadvornick, Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine, 509-358-7540,