Like it or not summer is right around the corner… and the age old question is lurking in the back of your mind: “What are we going to do this summer?” Kids are off school, therapy schedules may have relaxed… allowing you some extra time to plan something special for your child. What about summer camp?
At the thought of summer camp, my heart rate picks up a tick and my blood pressure rises… How could my child possibly exist with our my expert parental care? Breathe… Once logical thought resumes… I realize this might a wonderful opportunity for my child, who is now 9 years to try out summer camp. I, personally, have fond memories of camp as a child…but what about kids with special needs – are there camps (near me & don’t cost a millions $$$) that successfully manage children with behavior and emotional challenges such as autism or Aspergers?
The American Camp Association (www.acacamps.org/) suggests you consider many things when choosing a summer camp for your child, including:
- Accreditation – such as by ACA “American Camp Association”
- Length of Time – Day Camp, Overnight
- Extra Accommodations – training of staff, etc.
Talking to other parents, and the internet are great places to start when looking for a camp for your child. Once you narrow down your options, plan a visit and talk to other experienced campers and their families. This will give some more good data to make and informed decision.
I found a camp that allowed first time campers do different versions of a week long typical camp. They offered a Mini Camp, for a shorter period of time, or a You and Me Camp, where parents could spend the weekend with their camper and then phase out their departure.
As to funding, Autism Speaks offers many autism resource where you can find grants to support your child’s time at camp: https://www.autismspeaks.org/family-services/grants.
Once you have weighed all your options and finally make decision. You will then begin the process of preparing your child for camp. Along with a visit to camp this is opportunity to talk about what he/she will need to pack, what activities they will be doing, and how to best interact with counselor and other campers
Camp is a wonderful time to work on social skills because the campers are together for such concentrated time together. Hopefully with the right preparation and supports from camp staff you child will get some good practice and success to build their social confidence!
Watching some videos/movies about camp can help too:
Berestain Bears – Go To Camp
Camp Fred the Movie (silly take on camp for older kids)
Howcast (this one has some good info and other you might want to fast forward over)