How to Choose a Special Needs Summer Camp

Little girl at a special needs summer camp

Whether your child has a learning disability or a physical or emotional one, special needs summer camps may be a way to offer enrichment and fun. Summer camps now exist to address nearly every type of need or challenge. The hard part is picking the right one!

Benefits of Summer Camp

Summer camps can be extremely beneficial to children with special needs. Assuming the camp is well-staffed and equipped to deal with your child's illness or disability, a special needs summer camp can be stimulating mentally, physically, and emotionally. While a mainstream education is often the goal for special needs kids, it can still be enriching for them to spend time with children with similar needs. It can often give a much needed burst of self-esteem. Everyone needs a sense of belonging, and special needs kids are no different. Additionally, kids often build lifelong friendships at summer camp.

Since special needs camps are designed with specific needs in mind, they can help foster a sense of accomplishment. While activities should be challenging and stimulating, they should also be achievable. Activities, classes, and events should be all-inclusive, eliminating the isolation that may sometimes occur in a mainstream setting.

Choosing a Special Needs Summer Camp

Kids in wheel chairs participating at summer camp

Ideally, you should begin your summer camp search months before summer. This gives you the time to properly compare camps and pick one that makes you completely comfortable. Besides, summer camp registration begins early in the year, and spaces are limited.

As you compare camps, you'll be confronted with many choices: overnight camp or day camp? Local camp or faraway camp? The main consideration is, of course, your child. If your child has never been away from home, an overnight camp will likely be inappropriate. Instead, you'll want a local day camp. If your child has daily medical needs, you'll need a camp with a fully staffed medical team. In any event, the camp you select should be trained and equipped to handle your child's specific needs. Here are some questions to ask as you compare camps:

  • Is the staff fully trained to deal with this special need?
  • Is the camp able to handle medical emergencies?
  • Are the staff members degreed professionals?
  • Will counseling and/or therapy be offered?
  • Is the camp able to accommodate any physical limitations, such as walkers or wheelchairs?
  • How is discipline handled?
  • How is homesickness handled?

Special Needs Camp Resources

Websites Listing Special Needs Camps

Since the advent of the Internet, the search for special needs camps has gotten much easier. The following sites can help you in your quest:

  • My Summer Camps lists camps in a wide variety of genres. There is an extensive list of special needs camps divided by challenge, condition, impairment, or need.
  • Kids Camps lists camps for children with conditions such as ADHD, celiac disease, diabetes, autism, leukemia, and developmental disabilities.
  • lists camps for children with asthma, behavior issues, eating disorders, epilepsy, hearing impairment, and more.

Specific Special Needs Summer Camps

There are many camps available, so these lists are by no means all-inclusive. Use this list as a starting point for your own research, but do check out additional camps:

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How to Choose a Special Needs Summer Camp