Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Choosing a Camp or Summer Program

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Choosing a Camp or Summer Program

Article excerpt

Now is the time to begin making plans to send children to summer camp. The process of finding a suitable camp for a youngster with a disability may require searching outside your community. Parents often wonder how they can evaluate a camp program particularly when there may be a limited number available. You, as the parent, are the expert on understanding all the factors that enable your child to function at an optimal level. You are also aware of the adaptations you have made to your household for your child and the adaptations that are necessary outside of the house, particularly in the school environment. You can also utilize the professionals who know your child; your child's teacher and rehabilitation specialist can help in locating camps that will continue to promote the growth your child has made during the school year.

Summer programs provide unique opportunities for the development of social skills and interests that may get little attention during the school year where the focus is on cognitive learning. The recreational, social, and craft-oriented activities of a camp program may enhance a child's sense of self and develop his or her ability to get along with other children. Once you have clarified your goals for a summer program, your search can begin.

Involving the camper

Your child should be involved in the planning process from the start. Including the youngster in thinking about camp allows the child to experience the anticipation of the future, and feel some control over it. This also forces you, and the professionals who are helping you, to be clear in your expectations and objectives so you can communicate them clearly to your child.

All children can be apprehensive about a new experience, especially if it requires living away from home. Children with disabilities who may need help with eating, toileting, or dressing may be worried about how these needs will be met or whether they will be teased at camp. You may have similar concerns. Children usually feel relief when these concerns are discussed openly.

Finding a Camp

Even for families with substantial financial resources, finding a camp program appropriate for the needs of a child with particular disabilities may be difficult. Here, as in so many areas of planning, parent groups and associations often prove to be an invaluable source of information about available camps. Parent groups may also be able to link you with other families who are "old hands" and have taken part in specific camp programs. Social service agencies often compile camp lists with the names and addresses of camp directors. …

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