Ready to find the best fit summer camp for your child or young adult with special needs this summer? Check out these tips to make the best match.
By: Melanie Brennan, PT, DPT – Founder and CEO at ExercisAbilities and EA Pediatrics
Having fun with friends, learning to take turns, sharing pride in accomplishments with others, fine tuning social or physical skills learned during the school year to keep progress happening, or just having fun with friends while school is not in session – these are all great reasons why your child our young adult should join a week or more at camp this summer!
Adaptive or specialized summer camp is a great way for children and young adults with special needs to have fun while fine tuning or practicing skills learned during the school year in a real life, no pressure experience. But which camp is right for your child? Specialized organizations in Southeast Minnesota have been increasing in numbers in the last few years, offering more and more choice for families of children with special needs to participate in summer social, recreational, or therapy-based programs. As you go to dive into making choices, here are a few tips to help you compare typical mainstream, inclusive, and adaptive camp experiences.
First, consider your child or young adult’s strengths as well as areas that teachers and therapists have recommended that they continue to grow in. If one of these areas is social skills, look at what type of setting your child will thrive in most. If they are challenged by a large crowd or a busy environment, then a therapeutic social skills-based camp with a small group size could be great to help them focus on learning and practicing their skills without frustration. Alternatively, if they are ready to practice their skills in a large busy setting, then jumping into an inclusive or typical camp like outdoor day or overnight experiences might be perfect for them to gain confidence and make new friends.
If physical activity or motor skills are areas that you would like your child to focus on to gain independence, build confidence, or simply to be an outlet for high energy, there are many great options to choose from. To accomplish this, you can look for camps that are designed either on a specific therapeutic physical activity focus or simply an activity that will create excitement in your child to get up in the morning and be ready to explore. From adaptive wheelchair basketball to outdoor family autism camp to nature exploration at Quarry Hill, area organizations are offering a wide variety of experiences to chose from.
As you get out the giant family calendar and begin the exciting yet daunting task of mapping out the summer plan, keep in mind that it is important to match your child’s special needs with the capabilities of the camp to meet those needs. Call or email the camp organizer ahead of time to ask questions and assess their comfort and ability to modify or care for your child or young adult’s specific needs. If they have no experience or express concern, then don’t push it. If the camp is not able to provide the supports needed, the experience is likely to be stressful. Finding the right fit to achieve a successful experience is the most important element to ensure your child grows and learns this summer and is excited to explore these types of experiences again next summer!