Tips for Camp Success for your Child with Special Needs

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Summer camp offers a unique environment for children and youth to develop and mature socially, emotionally, physically and independently in a structured and fun atmosphere. 

Camp provides an environment for physical activity, creative expression and participation all in one short period of time. Healthy development of social skills, independence, self-esteem and confidence are supported by interactions with positive role models and peers. The opportunity to develop lifelong friendships and positive attitudes towards recreation and leisure are nurtured in a camp setting and benefit all children. 

For kids with special needs, camp is a great place for kids to experience these opportunities (especially those that are often limited in everyday life). Most importantly, camp is FUN! Encouraging time outdoors, playing away from screens and engaging with peers improves a child’s overall quality of life and sets him or her up for success. 

Tips for Camp Success:

1. Plan early.
Many camps and funding opportunities are based on a first come, first served basis. Inclusion spaces often fill quickly and funding can be depleted early. Connect as early as possible.

2. Consider the support needs of your child/youth.
What type of support does your child receive at school? If he or she requires additional support at school or in social settings, chances are good his or her needs will be similar at camp. Some camps are specialized and offer lower participant to counsellor ratios, while other camps may offer an inclusion 1:1 worker.

3. Communication is key.
Provide the camp with the appropriate information regarding your child: Does he or she need help with transitions? Need adaptations? Use a communication device? Is he or she a runner? Have toileting needs? Other needs? The more information you provide your camp the more prepared they will be to structure the environment for successful participation all summer long.

4. Prepare.
Some camps will allow you to visit the site or will have their facilitator connect or meet with your child before the summer to begin the relationship, as well as ease anxieties about the unknown on the first day of camp. If you need to, do a trial run at camp with your child. Also remember to prepare him or her by creating a visual schedule, daily countdown and emergency contact list should he or she wish to come home, whatever will help to ease anxiety on that first day.

We hope your child has a very successful and fun camp experience this year! 

For links to camp funding, inclusive recreation programs and summer camps for kids with special needs, visit our Online Resource Site.

For more information, click to see our summer camp listing for 2016.