1. Do you accept students who are on medications? Yes, the majority of our campers are taking some types of medications. Our nurse oversees all medication needs, and all staff members who are over the age of 21 are trained in medication administration. We use a med-packing company to allow easy administration. We strongly discourage parents from altering their campers’ meds (no med vacations!) while at camp.
2. What is your approach to food? (My child is a picky eater.) We do not use food as a reward or a punishment. We provide wholesome food that is generally familiar to kids (for example, hamburgers, hotdogs, peanut butter & jelly sandwiches, cereal, and eggs). We also encourage our students to try new foods. They are given substantial first servings, and must try small no-thank-you helpings if they wish to come up for seconds or be eligible for the occasional dessert. We do have limited meal alternatives, and will never let a child go hungry. Access to junk food is highly limited, and do not accept any care packages with food. We have vegetarian alternatives, and are prepared to meet most special dietary needs.
3. How physically fit does my child need to be? To participate in our program, your child must be able to walk across campus while carrying a 20-lb pack. All of our programs are designed to bring unskilled campers slowly into shape in their activities. The Base Camp four-day hike is appropriate for beginners, and all groups do day hikes in preparation. Teen Program participants should do basic physical training before camp (even just walking every day would be helpful). We do a lot of walking every day in all programs and eat a healthy diet, so our campers increase physical fitness while they are with us.
4. How do you discipline the children? We address issues when they happen, as a group: We stop what we’re doing and circle up to identify the problem, have the camper take responsibility, come up with some better alternatives, and decide whether there is a natural consequence. For example, throwing food might mean eating the next meal outside; horseplay in the van might result in missing the next van trip; being disrespectful may require apologizing and doing something nice for the other person. This group approach allows our kids to practice expressing their opinions and feelings appropriately and encourages them to listen to others. Time-outs are used to allow people to calm down and prepare to come to group. Sensitive issues may be dealt with one-on-one with a staff person. Yelling, punishment, and physical discipline are never allowed.
5. How qualified are your staff? Our staff members are college students or recent graduates who are studying a related field (such as education, outdoor leadership, or psychology) and are seeking hands-on experience. Most have had experience working with young people, and all have been chosen because of their good judgment, compassion, and insights. Before they begin working with our students, all staff members receive two weeks of intensive training in a wide variety of safety, program facilitation, and wilderness skills – and newer members of the Talisman team are supported by experienced senior staff.
6. How will you communicate with me? We will call you once a week with an update – though you may call or e-mail us more frequently if you have questions or concerns. At the end of the session, we will send you a written summary of your child’s Talisman experience. We discourage visits (except between sessions) and generally do not allow kids to make phone calls home, as this disrupts the group process. (We do make an exception to this policy for family birthdays).
7. What should we bring? We will send you a complete packing list with your confirmation packet. Some campers will need a backpack, sleeping bag, hiking boots, and long johns. Forbidden items include electronics, food, and money.
8. What is a typical day like at Talisman? That’s a challenging question to answer, because every day is different for each program. Most days for Teen Program participants involve a good bit of hiking or paddling, with group members increasingly taking charge of daily tasks. Base Camp and Sight groups usually get up, do morning chores, eat breakfast, and head out on their day’s adventure (which could be a field trip to a waterfall, rock climbing, tie-dying, swimming, or packing up for a camping trip). Meals are served in our dining hall, and groups take turns with kitchen clean-up. Group discussions occur throughout the day, to plan for the next activity, to talk about what we learned in the last activity, or to resolve an issue. Evenings are time to wind down and prepare for bed. Cabin groups are organized by age, which allows us to practice age-appropriate peer interactions.
9. What happens between sessions if my child is staying? You must either pick up your child for the weekend or enroll at additional cost in a special stay-over program, which will be based on campus.
10. What are your safety practices? We consider safety our number one priority. A full list of our comprehensive safety practices can be found here.
11. What level of supervision will my child receive? Your child will be supervised as outlined in our program manual by our qualified and caring staff. The level of supervision our students receive is in direct correlation to the level of severity of their behavioral issues and as required by applicable laws and regulations.
12. What are the qualifications of the staff caring for my child? Staff biographies can be found here. In addition, we conduct background checks on all employees prior to hiring to ensure that we hire quality individuals and in compliance with all state regulations. At least one staff member who is First Aid and CPR certified will be available to your child at all times. Our staff also receives ongoing training to enhance our quality of care.
13. What happens if there is an emergency? As a program of Aspen Education Group, we have established best practices and risk management procedures which include emergency preparedness training and response. Should there be an emergency situation, such as a natural disaster, you will be notified by someone within our organization with as much detail as possible, as soon as possible. Your child’s safety is our number one priority, and we will do everything it takes to keep our students out of harm’s way.
14. May I speak with another parent who sent their child to your program? Of course! We appreciate the fact that you are doing your due diligence when it comes to selecting the right program for your child and, as such, will provide you with a list of references. Just contact us by clicking here. Or, listen and read what some of our program graduates and parents have said here.
15. What is your success rate? Your child’s success is dependent on many factors, the most important being the level at which your child chooses to participate in our program and the support you offer them upon their return home. Our parent company, Aspen Education Group, has voluntarily participated in independent research studies to determine outcome success rates and behaviors. These study results can be found here. Aspen programs have over two decades of experience helping youth and families get their lives back on track and moving toward their potential.