How To Determine If A Summer Camp Is Right For Your Special Needs Child

Summer Camp
Photo via Pixabay by JPlumb
Being a parent is a job loaded with worries, but if your child has special needs, those worries are likely multiplied every time they leave the house. There are often so many things to think about, including their safety, whether they will have access to medicine or a means of getting around, and how to get them to communicate their needs if you’re not there. It can be overwhelming, and with the end of the school year near, you might be thinking of ways to help them thrive in a safe environment during summer months.
Many states offer summer camp programs, and some of them are special needs-specific, meaning they offer services for children who need a little extra care and attention. For some parents, the thought of leaving their child in the hands of strangers is scary, especially if they have medical needs or have never been away from home before. However, it might be just the thing you and your child need to get a boost of confidence and take a little break. Talk to your child’s doctor about the possibility of summer camp and how it might help his development.

No matter where you decide to go, it’s important to do some research beforehand. If your child doesn’t require a special needs camp but is nervous about being away from home, you’ll want to make sure the counselors are sympathetic and helpful. If the camp is special needs-specific, of course you’ll need to find out everything you can about the camp and their policies, and, if possible, take a tour.

One of the most important factors to look at when you’re checking out summer camps is the staff. If possible, set up a tour so you can meet the counselors and camp owners in person. Most summer camps hire teens, and often they may only spend one summer there before moving on to college or another job. However, special needs camps are a little different; if you speak to the counselors and most of them are new or have only worked there a short time, it’s probably not a good sign. High turnover rates are a sure sign of inexperience, especially in a job involving working with children.

A good summer camp that focuses on special needs will offer a variety of programs designed to help children with various needs learn and thrive. Sometimes, these camps will be held during the day only, so you’ll want to check and see what times they offer certain classes or activities. Ask about how many children are assigned to one counselor to ensure your child will receive the best care.

Medical issues
Special needs camps should be equipped with at least one staff member who is trained in medical issues, but ideally all counselors at such a camp would be trained to handle medical emergencies in special needs kids. Ask the staff about their training and listen for specific medical terms; if they can’t give a firm answer using the correct terminology, chances are you need to move on.
“A bigger question might be, ‘How can parents know when they are ready to send their child to camp.’ If parents feel they can use a break to recharge their batteries or allow for some extra time to focus on the needs of their other children or each other, and the camp agrees that the child would fit in well to their program, then I think it’s worth giving camp a try,” says Stephen Glicksman, a developmental psychologist.

Of course, any child can be exposed to new experiences attending summer camp, so it’s important to talk to yours about making good, healthy choices, especially in the event that they encounter drugs or alcohol.

It can be difficult to think about sending your child to a new, unfamiliar place, but it could be the best thing for them. With a little bit of research and preparation, you’ll find that both of you can use this opportunity to learn and grow.

This article is contributed by Alex Robbins
Mr. Robbins is part of the Safety Today team, and loves having the opportunity to promote home and community safety through his writing. 



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