One of the benefits of a special needs camp is that kids can share experiences with others who have similar challenges. While camps designed for specific needs offer very specialized care, some families would prefer to attend a traditional camp that caters to all children. Only you can decide which would be more beneficial for your child. Following are questions parents may want to ask before choosing a traditional or special needs camp for their child:
- Does the camp meet the organization’s standards for kids with special needs, including facility and staffing requirements? What training and experience do the directors and counselors have in working with kids with a need similar to your child’s?
- Are there other families you can contact (whose children have attended the camp) that might be willing to discuss their experience with you?
- What is the ratio of counselors to campers? For children with severe disabilities, the ratio should be at least one counselor for every three campers.
- What are the camp’s health and safety procedures? Is there a registered nurse on site? If not, who will disperse medication, if needed?
- How close is the nearest hospital? Have arrangements been made with them in case of emergency?
- Is the camp able to accommodate special dietary needs?
- Who will assist with feeding, toileting or other activities of daily living?
- Can I visit the camp to see the program firsthand?
- How do they ensure an inclusive environment during activities that aren’t appropriate for your child? What alternatives are available?
- What are camp registration fees? (Keep in mind that expense and quality may not go hand-in-hand because many specialized camps charge only a fraction of actual costs.)
- If camp costs are out of your range, find out if there are scholarships available.
- Is the camp accredited by an organization such as the American Camping Association (www.acacamps.org) or the National Camp Association (www.summercamp.org)?
For a list of local camps for kids with special needs, see Camps and Enrichment Programs.
Denise Yearian is the former editor of two parenting magazines and the mother of three children.