Relationship Rescue: Sleep Away Camp for Children with Special Needs
Q: “Will my child be alright at a sleep away camp for special needs?” Couples desperately need the time alone even if it is for a week…I have dealt with this question and questions of “special needs” camps.
Advice: Quite often the question of appropriate summer programs for the special needs population comes up. There are so many single parents and couples that truly need a “break” from their children, but who are very concerned about how to find the right camp where their child will be safe.
Let me first warn you that these camps are not all that easy to find, but they do exist out there. As the parent of 2 special needs children, I found a wonderful camp that takes children from all over the country. It is called Camp Roundlake and it’s located in Pennsylvania and is sponsored through the Jewish Community Centers. You don’t have to be Jewish to attend. A Google search will reveal many programs but you need to be specific as to where you want to send them. The ones that I highly recommend are run by either Church programs or Jewish Community Centers (JCCs).
The “guilt” that accompanies sending one’s child can be overwhelming. As one parent said to me, “she depends on me for everything and I feel so guilty to just be sending her off.” I smiled and inside said to myself…”oh boy can I relate to that one”. The point is that as a hands on parent, it is very important to have your child/young adult take a break from you as well. Isn’t that surprising? It assists them in being able to realize that they need to depend on themselves and others to help them and teach them. Don’t we allow our typical children to experience that?
In our home, we began with 1 week and VERY slowly worked on 3 weeks. It was not easy at first but I knew that our children needed this opportunity to be more independent. Well, it was strange at first, especially when you don’t know what to do with all of your free time. As one client shared, she was astonished at how much time she had for herself to just go to the beach or even read a book.
I can remember when the bus dropped them off after our first 3 week sleep away. I do want to admit to you, the reader, that I was nervous the entire time. However, when they got off that bus, I almost didn’t recognize how much more straight they stood and how large their smiles were. How much they had grown! When we asked them if they had a good time, their response was…”when are we going back”? I rest my case!
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