My Special Needs Child LOVES Summer Camp… Maybe Yours Will, Too
By: Dr. Erin Jacobs Stagner
Every kid lives for summer vacation, and a big part of that for many children — including those with special needs — is going to summer camp, either for day camps or for longer sleep-away weeks.
Growing up, we loved going to summer camps. It meant new friends, sleeping bags, junk food, swimming pools and sunburns. We could stay up late, get up early, and go all day long without resting.
There are times when parents are grateful to have a week-long break from childcare. In fact…who am I kidding? We are ALWAYS grateful for summer camps! We get a break from “I’m bored,” “Can we go swimming?” and “When can my friends come over?”
For special needs children, this social community is sometimes harder to come by. While many attend school during the year and maybe even for a while in the summer, often, few activities include them specifically.
Here in the Delta region and beyond, there ARE options available for this coming summer.
As a mother with a special needs child, there is nothing more important to us than inclusion of our children. There is excitement for weeks before camp, and for weeks or months after. Our daughter gets to enjoy activities that are commonplace to summer camps, such as swimming, ropes courses, zip-lines, petting zoos, tubing, karaoke, dances, face painting and best of all, making new friends.
In our experience, my daughter Maggie has been especially cared for at summer camp with trained staff, counselors and nurses. Applications for such camps include in-depth questions about medical care, history and current medications. There are multiple nurses on staff that administer medication, and the counselors undergo extensive training regarding special needs children and adults. Each facility is handicap-accessible.
Each year that Maggie has gone, she has had the same counselor and stayed in the same cabin so that she has familiarity.
The first time Maggie went to the Easter Seals Alabama-hosted Special Camp for Children and Adults (Camp ASCCA), she was absolutely terrified of the zip-line and refused to even attempt it. Hailey, her counselor, was so excited this past summer because Maggie not only climbed up to the zip-line, but followed through and enjoyed it. She has learned how to conquer fears with more ease and has enjoyed the process of making new friends.
I hope that the leaders and organizers of these camps realize just how much our special kids enjoy the special time they spend with them each summer!
Dr. Erin Jacobs Stagner, DC, MS, MSHAPI is an avid health nut and OCD organizer. She is braving this world one day at a time.
In addition to the offerings in the P&K camp guide, below are a few summer camp opportunities I know of that cater to special needs kiddos:
- Camp Bratton-Green is a ministry of Gray Center and the Episcopal Diocese of Mississippi. Summer camp sessions have been available for youth since 1947. Special session one is for people with mental and/or physical disabilities ages 40 and up. For ages 39 and under, Bratton-Green offers special session two.
- Easter Seals Alabama hosts a Special Camp for Children and Adults (Camp ASCCA) on Lake Martin in Alabama, on 230 wooded acres. This camp includes 7,000 people annually since 1976.
- In 2004, Camp Looking Glass started free, monthly activities and summer camps in Greenville, Mississippi, especially for special need children. Their summer camp is hosted by Camp Leroy State Park in Hollandale.