Summer Camp… Make Plans
As summer approaches, children are talking about their plans. You should make sure that your child’s summer fosters opportunities for mental, social, emotional, physical and even spiritual development. There should be potential for new friendships, outdoor adventures and swimming. Summer camp can provide just that and more. As your child grows and becomes independent, his self-esteem will increase too. Having a special need is not an excuse to miss out on the fun.
It is perfectly normal, as the parent of a special needs child, to worry or have some concerns about sending your child to summer camp for the first time. You may wonder how other children will react to your child’s disability. You may not feel confident counselors understand and can respond to your child’s special need. You may even feel as if you need to sign up for summer camp too because he cannot do it alone. You can alleviate your worries by learning about the innumerable camps just for special needs that will suit your child. Among these special needs camps, each will have a different mission statement and goals. There are so many to choose from.
You should sit down as a family and make a list of what qualities in a summer camp are most important to you. Some ideas to consider are the location or distance from home, length of the session, cost or if financial assistance is offered, religious affiliation, counselor-camper ratio, credentials of the staff and whether parental visitation is welcomed. The next step is to call the camp and ask to speak to the director. Ask any questions you may have and if you remain interested, request literature to be mailed to your home and if possible, plan a visit. If a visit is not going to be possible, see if you can connect your child with a former camper or speak to a parent yourself.
There are many camps that illustrate the diversity of the special needs camping experience. Some camps are just for children with a certain disability. Your child will have the advantage of having a medical professional and even his own assigned friend who will help participate in fun activities and assist with personal hygiene issues if necessary. There is something to suit every child’s interests, whether it is swimming, horseback riding or art.
You may consider a camp that mixes normally developing children with children with special needs. This fosters awareness and increased understanding of disabilities. Your child will be matched to a session that matches his needs based on age, sex, stage of development, previous experiences at camp and acquisition of social skills.
Camps try to build self-confidence and focus on capability rather than disability. Children can take part in regular summer camp activities that are modified to accommodate their needs. If the camp has a smaller ratio of campers to counselors like 1-1, your child may be given more attention and have greater odds that his needs will be met.
A special need camp may mainstream children with and without special needs, target a specific special need or tailor to many special needs. Make the selection process and decision a family event where your child is a full-fledged participant. Both you and your child should feel secure and excited about summer camp. Remember that your child will pick up on your attitude or fears, so make sure you give off a positive message.
If you are considering a camp, it is advised to find out the rating it received from the American Camp Association (ACA). Local branches of organizations focusing on disabilities like Easter Seals or the Autism Society may be able to offer information about camps that will be close to home. Through connecting with other parents, you may hear of other children’s experiences. Remember, your child has the potential to have an incredible experience at summer camp. With summer around the corner, now is the prime time to start planning camp. The experience will create memories that will last a lifetime.
FREE DOWNLOAD: PSN Getting to Know My Child Form_Camp
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