Summer Camp Summer Fun
Summer camp should encourage the potential for new friendships, outdoor adventures, swimming, hiking, games and general fun. When you choose the right camp, it can provide all 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, 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 that 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 also because he/she 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.
First, 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: location/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. 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.
While deciding on a camp, decide what skills a child will hopefully (and helpfully) learn from a summer experience. Is the goal for the child to learn social skills, reading skills, or some sort of physical skill (e.g. playing baseball, riding a bike, etc…)? A critical skill that children should learn is swimming. For children on the autism spectrum one of the leading causes of death after seizures is accidents. One of the most frequent accidents is drowning. The American Red Cross offers swimming lessons at local community pools that cater to a wide range of ability levels. Some courses are specifically geared toward individuals with disabilities known as adapted aquatics or adapted swimming lessons. Check with your local Red Cross Chapter for a swimming program near you.
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. 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.
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This post originally appeared on our March/April 2014 Magazine