Camp is important for kids with disabilities for many reasons:
- Summer camp gives our kids a chance to meet others with similar needs and abilities, and builds a sense of independence and conﬁdence to be away from family members.
- It is a great first step to preparing for life without mom and dad doing everything for them.
- Summer camp allows kids to learn more about their disability and coping skills. It improves social and communication skills by making new friends.
- And most of all, camp lets them have fun with their peers!
For families, camp can provide a much-needed break. It allows parents to reconnect with one another, while also strengthening their relationships with their other children.
There are many factors to consider and important questions to ask when selecting a camp for your child. The more research and preparation you do, the more comfortable everyone will be.
Here are a few guidelines to follow:
- Consider if your child is ready to attend an overnight camp or a day camp. If your child has not attended camp before, start with a day camp.
- Ask other parents about the camps their children have attended.
- Contact the camp to see if they offer financial assistance in the form of scholarships or "camperships."
- Camps tend to ﬁll up quickly, so it is very important for parents to plan ahead and register as early as February.
- Complete all camp applications as thoroughly as possible; attach photos of your child and additional pages to provide a full bio of your child.
- Ask about attending camp with your child as a volunteer. This is a great way to learn ﬁrst-hand about the camp’s activities, the staff and how they interact with the kids. Then, next year, you will feel more comfortable sending your child on their own.)
- For those parents who are not quite ready to send a child away to camp (or children who are not ready yet), there are many family camp options:
- For parents who feel their child’s needs are too great for them to attend camp, there are several camps that specifically serve a population of kids/teens/adults with severe disabilities (e.g., CAMP Camp).
- Check local options in your neighborhood. Your child may not need a camp specifically for children with disabilities. YMCA, Recreation or Neighborhood Center programs, art, dance, theater, or robotics camps are good options. Focus on your child’s interests versus just what is available. Sometimes a high-school volunteer can support your child’s needs in those programs.
Mikey’s Guide is an up-to-date publication of camps for children with disabilities. The Department of State Health Services also provides a free list.
It can be a scary thought to send your child away even for the day, but with preparation it can be a positive experience for everyone. Camp is a wonderful opportunity for your child to make new friends and create memories for a lifetime.
Search the Find Services, Groups and Events section for camp opportunities in your area.