About Us

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What we do

Camp Avanti provides an intensive occupational therapy program within a rustic camp setting for children ages 6 to 15 who have learning disabilities and/or sensory processing dysfunction (SPD). While campers have average or above average intelligence, they may demonstrate poor coordination, hyperactivity, attention deficits, inappropriate or delayed development, poor self-care skills and/or inadequate adaptive behavior resulting in behavioral problems.

As occupational therapists, we believe that all people seek to interact with their environment in a meaningful and purposeful way. Through activity, individuals develop the ability to respond productively. Health, therefore, is the result of a person’s ability to participate successfully in tasks that are meaningful and relevant to an individual’s age, interests and roles in life.

For the children, Camp Avanti provides a safe environment in which children can develop positive interpersonal relationships and improve sensory motor skills through appropriate and motivating leisure activities. Gaining skills builds a greater sense of self-control, competence and self-esteem.

For the field of occupational therapy, we provide documentation on the effects of therapy programs and techniques through our research. We also act as an advanced training center for occupational therapists worldwide.

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Our History

Our model was conceived and developed by Patricia Wilbarger (M.Ed., OTR/L, FAOTA) in the early 1980s. The model combined experience for children with advanced training for occupational therapists. For the children, the camps are intensive occupational therapy using sensory integration techniques and strategies. For the therapists it also serves as a unique professional development opportunity. Both benefit in the camp setting. And, like all camp experiences, our goal is to encourage fun as well!

The first camp, Avanti…Camp Cachuma, was held in 1983. Co-directed by Patricia and Julia Wilbarger (Ph.D, OTR/L), the camp was held in the mountains behind Santa Barbara, California. When Camp Cachuma was sold in 1989, no new suitable location nearby was identified. To keep the camp experience alive, permission to replicate the model was granted to Eileen Richter (MPH, OTR/L, FAOTA) and Nancy Lawton-Shirley (OTR/L, SIPT certified) who held a camp in 1989 in Hudson, Wisconsin at Camp St. Croix. In 1990, Julia Wilbarger joined the team. The Camp St. Croix location operated successfully through 2009. Starting in 2011 a new program launched at Camp Avanti Icaghowan directed by Kris Worrell (OTR/L, SIPT certified) who has over 25 years of experience working in the Avanti model.

The Avanti Camps have had a major influence on the practice of occupational therapy and sensory integration treatment. Some of the most innovative techniques and theories used in pediatric occupational therapy were developed and expanded upon through the camps. For example, the concept of therapy intensives emerged from the recognition of the power of immersion in the therapeutic process. The Therapressure Program (developed by Patricia Wilbarger) was introduced to the larger occupational therapy community at Avanti…Camp Cachuma.

Avanti also brought an innovative training model for therapists. The instructors for the practicum course held each year at Avanti Camps are acknowledged as world experts in sensory processing dysfunction. Many of the practicum therapists who have participated in the educational experience at Camp Avanti have become leaders and experts in the field of occupational therapy.

Patricia Wilbarger (M.Ed., OTR/L, FAOTA)
Julia Wilbarger (Ph.D, OTR/L)
Eileen Richter (MPH, OTR/L, FAOTA)
Nancy Lawton-Shirley (OTR/L, SIPT certified)
Kris Worrell (OTR/L, SIPT certified)

OTR/L: Occupational Therapist, Registered, Licensed
SIPT Certified: Sensory Integration and Praxis Tests Certified
MPH: Master of Public Health
FAOTA: Fellow of the American Occupational Therapy Association
M.Ed.: Master of Education
Ph.D: Doctorate Level Education