It’s that time of year again and I’m appreciative that Susan Li of Find the Best was willing to write this article to share with all of us about finding camps for our special needs kids. Not only is it a great experience for the kids to engage with others in a fun atmosphere but it’s a great opportunity for some respite for all of us caregivers! Without further ado….

 

Special Needs Camps

By Susan Li


Camps meant to accommodate children with developmental and physical disabilities are beginning to emerge nationwide in response to demand from parents. Summer programs can be profound, meaningful experiences for children and any type of disability should not preclude individuals from participating. However, there are several crucial characteristics of camps that should be considered before making a decision and to ensure your child be comfortable and cared for in your absence.

Counselor/Camper Ratio
If your child needs a high level of attention and supervision, it’s best to seek out programs that either have a high ratio of counselors to campers, or get directly in touch with a program ahead of time to arrange a counselor specifically for your child. Many organizations such as the YMCA, 4-H, religious and school affiliated programs have the means to assign a counselor that provides one-on-one attention. Individual counselors often assist in transitions between activities and assume responsibility of health related tasks.

Activities – Social interaction, transition, sensory-stimulation

Many outdoor camps focus on team-oriented sports and interpersonal activities, but it’s very possible to find outdoor programs that have more individual activities. Camps that feature animal interaction, such as science discovery camps or horseback riding camps, are great for fostering nurturing, relaxed outdoor environments.
Art camps are perhaps one of the best options for a tactile experience that minimizes unwanted sensory-stimulation. Particularly for children with autism, ASDs, and similar developmental disabilities, art projects provide a constructive outlet for energy and relieves many of the triggers for outbursts or tantrums. One of the most rewarding characteristics of art camps for children is the fact that they get to complete a project from start to finish and create a physical piece of work. These sorts of programs tend to offer the most flexibility in terms of accommodating physical disabilities as well.

Day vs Sleepaway
As a parent, it’s up to your discretion whether you believe a camp can adequately care for your children during a sleepaway program. The lengths of these sorts of programs vary from days to months; regardless of length of stay, maintain constant, transparent communication with counselors and management is critical. You should be able to ensure their staff can handle medical emergencies and have the same knowledge as you when it comes to the care your child requires. Moreover, residential camps tend to be more expensive, one week on average is about $574. Day camps still allows for great, enriching experiences while giving more agency and accessibility to parents.

To assist parents everywhere, FindTheBest has curated a free database of camps for special needs:

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