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How to Choose a Camp for your Special Needs Child

How to Choose a Camp for your Special Needs Child

Children with special needs often don’t get a chance to interact with others who face the same challenges. Attending a summer camp can be a life-changing experience for any child, but especially healing for one with special needs. In addition to gaining independence and getting exercise, children also learn to build relationships and develop creativity. I asked special education teacher Dany Keiser for her input on how to choose the best summer camp for your child.

Dany says her biggest tip is to do your research on multiple camps and take the time to find the best fit for your child. While some camps offer day sessions, where children attend camp during the day and come home at night, others offer overnight sessions where children spend the night on site for a few days. Some camps may have different sessions for different needs (for example, a low sensory week for autistic children). Churches sometimes have special needs ministries with single-day events. It’s important to recognize what your child can handle.

Another factor to pay attention to is what unique features certain camps offer. Some camps have programs where siblings (whether they have special needs or not) can attend camp together, which could make some kids more comfortable with the idea of camp in general. A program like this is also a great bonding experience for brothers and sisters, and seeing a familiar face each day could help keep homesickness at bay. Another option is to find a retreat for families with special needs or disabilities, so the entire family can experience camp together.

Don’t be afraid to contact camps with your specific concerns. From logistics (wheelchair access, etc.) to dietary or medical needs, make sure that the camp you choose is ready and able to care for your child properly. If it’s important to you to have a doctor on site, voice your concerns and choose a camp that you will be comfortable caring for your child.

The biggest thing to remember, Dany says, is, “You, the parent, know your child best. Involve your child as much as possible and make decisions, based on your specific needs.”

Rhyan Davis would like to thank her friend Dany Keiser for her expertise and advice!

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