10 Must-Have Items for Spring!

Blog: Spring break at home

If you’re feeling energized by the coming of spring, you’re not alone. Warmer weather, more daylight, the return of birds, flowers and greenery are just some of the things that motivate us to get outdoors in spring — the season of renewal.

What to do when you get out there?
Enabling Devices has put together a list of toys, and other products that will make your time in the sun, brighter than ever!

1. Big Water Toy #9000
Big Water Toy is great fun and provides a wonderful tactile sensory experience in any season, but when you can take it outdoors, you get all the fun without the mess!

2. Under the Sea #9013
Another terrific toy for water play, Under the Sea has two switches that children can use for two different actions. One switch makes the water swirl around in the colorful pond; the other that turns on lights and music. This toy also builds tactile awareness.

3. Misting Fan #2134
This switch adapted fan emits a fine mist of water to keep youngsters cool, while increasing sensory stimulation and teaching cause and effect.

4. Spiderman Bubble Blower #2333
This new bubble blower will be a huge favorite with Spiderman lovers and anyone who loves bubble play! Instead of creating a web with his hand, this guy shoots bubbles! This toy can be used with a capability switch (not included) or with a touch.

5. Plastic Swing #2190
Swinging — it’s one of childhood’s greatest joys! Our Plastic Swing, designed with a safety harness and crotch strap ensures that your child can swing safely!

6. Weighted Blanket #3941W
Spring weather can be unpredictable. Take along one of our weighted blankets to stay warm while your child also benefits from the sensory integration, increased attention and focus that this special blanket provides.

7. Activity Gym #2319
It’s easy to set up our Activity Gym in your backyard or in the park. This multifaceted learning toy offers five different activities, music, flashing lights and a mirror to provide hours of play and stimulation.

8. Portable CD Player #3414
Outings to the park, beach or pool are even better when you bring along your favorite tunes. Our portable CD and radio player can be activated with a capability switch.

9. Laser Jet Kaleidoscope #2269
July 4th fireworks happen once a year, but you can enjoy your own personal light show every night with this portable kaleidoscope combines red and green lasers for a fantastic sensory experience

10. Adapted Garden Spray #9083
Spring brings out the gardener in almost everyone. Our Adapted Garden Spray is designed with a wand that’s easy to attach your wheelchair.

Happy Spring!

Check out “Crip Tales!”

Crip Tales

Here at Enabling Devices, we’re always on the lookout for new films and TV shows with inclusive, diverse casts and realistic portrayals of characters living with disabilities. “Crip Tales,” a new BBC America series is certainly one to watch.

The series, which aired last month in honor of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, was created by British actor, musician and writer Mat Fraser (“American Horror Story,” “His Dark Materials”). It can be viewed online at BBC America.

“I’m so proud and excited to present these wonderful stories for mainstream TV audiences around the world, thanks to BBC America and BBC Studios,” said Fraser in a press release. “The authentic voices, taut direction and shining performances combine to make a series of diverse and dramatic monologues that are compelling, refreshing, and above all, entertaining.”

The first season of “Crip Tales” encompasses six fictional short films largely written and performed by individuals with disabilities and based on research about the disabilities community in Great Britain. Each monologue focuses on a defining moment in the character’s life.

Fraser, who has thalidomide-induced phocomelia, a birth defect that causes his arms to be short and close to his torso, performs the first monologue, in which he describes the ordeal of auditioning with a disability. Simultaneously poignant and humorous, the monologue pokes fun at the discomfort of casting agents, directors and producers when a disabled actor shows up for an audition.

In episode 2 — “Paper Knickers” — performed by Jackie Hagan — a young woman must decide whether to follow her doctor’s advice to have her leg amputated. Meanwhile, she obsesses about a new love interest, something everyone can relate to.

Episode 3 — “Thunderbox,” introduces us to a young woman (Ruth Madeley), who becomes pregnant from an encounter at a 1960s music festival. Because of her disability, doctors and her family try to dissuade her from keeping the baby.

“The Shed,” Episode 5, tells the story of a disabled children’s book writer (Carly Houston,) who falls in love with her next-door neighbor. Her caregiver disapproves of the relationship.

Fraser made a point of hiring women actors for most of the show’s episodes since women with disabilities are particularly underrepresented in the entertainment industry. It was also important to him that many of the stories focus on romantic relationships and sexuality, he told Zack Budryk of The Hill, “Media portrayals of disabled people typically depict them as ‘asexual or infantilized sexually’ when nothing could be further from the truth.”

Given his own frustrations as a disabled actor, Fraser made sure that almost everyone involved with the series is a person living with disabilities. “I wanted this to be a wholly disabled experience,” he told Budryk.

Fraser was also intent on making a show that included disabled directors “because of how difficult it can be for disabled directors in particular to get a foot in the door in an inaccessible industry. We haven’t exactly been welcomed by the industry [and] for disabled directors it’s been the hardest shlep of all,” he said.

Though Fraser believes that opportunities for disabled individuals in the entertainment industry are increasing, there is still a long way to go. He hopes that “Crip Tales” will make a difference.

C.A.T.S Hosts Annual HalloWheels Contest and Fundraiser

Hallowheels Contest Super-Girl

Halloween. It’s every kid’s favorite holiday. But who are we kidding? Halloween during the COVID-19 pandemic won’t be the same as Halloween in years past. After all, most families will wisely forego trick-or-treating and Halloween parties to protect their children and themselves from exposure to the coronavirus.

But all’s not lost. HalloWheels, an annual costume design contest and fundraiser sponsored by C.A.T.S (Children’s Assistive Technologies Service), a nonprofit organization in Virginia, will still take place — though with some alterations (pun intended).

Founded in 2014 by Cathie Cummins, a retired pediatric physical therapist, C.A.T.S. provides free gently used pediatric rehabilitation equipment and assistive technology for children with disabilities who reside in Virginia. The program is all about families helping families.

“Cathie created a re-use program that started out of her garage and it’s grown to three locations— Roanoke, Hampton Roads and Richmond [Virginia] and it serves the whole state,” says John Naples, senior program manager at C.A.T.S Roanoke location.

“Adaptive equipment for children is expensive — even more expensive than adaptive equipment for adults,” Naples says. “That’s because children are all different sizes. A 2-year-old can’t use the same equipment as a 5-year-old.” As children grow, their families must keep purchasing new equipment and many can’t afford that he explains. “Cathie wanted all children to have the adaptive equipment they need.”

For the past five years, HalloWheels has brought joy to children who use wheelchairs and their families by asking volunteer teams to design costumes that incorporate the wheelchairs into the Halloween costumes. Members of the public pledge donations to the nonprofit when they vote for their favorite costumes.

In previous (read: pre-Covid) years, Naples says volunteer teams made up of students from local colleges created the costumes. “The kids really enjoy working with the students,” he says. “Last year was the best one ever. We expanded into four locations and the contests were happening all at the same time.” In 2019, recalls Naples, the winning team was comprised of students from the University of Lynchburg who created a [wheelchair-based] motorcycle for a child who dressed up as Captain America.

This year, 16 individual families will create costumes for their children using materials supplied by C.A.T.S with virtual assistance from the organization and its volunteer partners. While everyone who competes will receive a prize of at least $100, the first prize winner will receive a $750 gift certificate and the second prize winner will receive a $500 gift certificate donated by Enabling Devices that can be used to purchase products from the company.

“We are so thrilled to be able to support such a wonderful and creative endeavor,” says Enabling Devices President and CEO Seth Kanor. “We wish all of our customers, the happiest of Halloweens.”

Voting will take place beginning on October 26 through midnight on November 1!  Each dollar donated is one vote for your favorite costume! Click here to submit your vote.

Mental Health in the Age of COVID-19

Face masked person

May 1 marks the 71st annual observation of Mental Health Month. According to nonprofit Mental Health America, “While 1 in 5 people will experience a mental illness during their lifetime, everyone faces challenges in life that can impact their mental health.”

Perhaps this has never been more accurate than in the age of COVID-19. These days, we are surrounded by illness and death, fearful of contracting the virus, concerned about our financial well-being and physically isolated from friends, family and colleagues. What’s more, we have no idea how long the current situation will last. Is it any wonder that many of us are finding it difficult to cope?

For people with disabilities and their families, the circumstances presented by the pandemic can be even more challenging. One reason is that people with disabilities are already more susceptible to mental illness. For example, Healthline reports that “depression and suicidal ideation are more likely among people with disabilities due to factors like abuse, isolation, and stressors related to poverty, among others.”

Many of these factors are magnified during the current crisis. What can you do to take care of your mental health or the mental health of your loved ones during this time? Here are some suggestions:

Maintain connections
With schools, community centers, and vocational programs closed to prevent the spread of COVID-19, many of the social avenues that individuals with disabilities typically enjoy are unavailable. But physical distance need not mean lack of connection. Many organizations continue to offer virtual classes, activities and tele-therapy sessions through Zoom, FaceTime or other virtual platforms. Though not as satisfying as in-person meetings, these opportunities for human connection are surprisingly comforting during this time.

Stick to a routine
People with intellectual disabilities and autism are especially sensitive to disruptions in their routines. Though we can’t pretend our lifestyles haven’t changed, keeping bedtimes, mealtimes, chores and other household activities as close to normal as possible will make life more predictable and less stressful for family members who crave consistency.

Practice self-care
Whether you’re living with disabilities and mental health challenges or caring for someone else with those challenges, it’s more important than ever to take good care of yourself. If at all possible, make sure you are eating healthy foods, getting adequate amounts of sleep, exercising regularly and reaching out to your networks.

Find something to look forward to
If you’re home with your family, come up with at least one event each day that’s a pick-me-up. Whether it’s a specially prepared meal, family game, story hour or movie night, anticipating something cheerful can help you get through this trying time. If you live alone, start a virtual book club, play online games with friends, or start a new hobby.

Take a break from the virus
It’s important to stay abreast of developments related to the coronavirus, but it’s arguably more important to protect your mental health. Listening to copious amounts of news coverage can be scary, depressing and sometimes enraging. Limit your news intake, and minimize COVID-related conversations, especially around children who may find them alarming.

Enjoy springtime
May is one of most beautiful months of the year, and enjoying flowers, warm breezes and sunshine go a long way toward improving our moods. When the weather’s good, spend time outdoors, take socially distant walks and appreciate the wonders of the natural world.

Ask for help
If life becomes overwhelming for you or your loved one, and particularly if you or your loved one has thoughts of hurting him or herself, don’t wait. Reach out to your therapist or contact one of these helplines:

SAMSHA: 1-800-985-5990, or text TalkWithUs to 66746
National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

For COVID-19 related questions: Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

Six Ways to Stay Safe When Complete Social Distancing Isn’t an Option

social distancing

We’ve all heard that “social distancing” is an important part of containing the spread of the COVID-19, the new coronavirus. But maintaining a distance of at least six feet away from another individual is impossible when that individual is your caregiver. Many people with disabilities rely on a caregiver outside of their household to help them with eating, bathing, walking, toileting and dressing. So what’s the best way to stay healthy in these instances? Here’s what some of the experts recommend:

1. Educate yourself about COVID-19 prevention
Be aware of the symptoms of COVID-19, and contact your health care provider if you believe you or a loved one has contracted the virus. Stay abreast of recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization for protecting yourself and others from contracting the virus.

2. Contact your home health care provider
If your caregiver works for a health care agency, Easter Seals New Jersey advises you to contact “their representatives and find out more about what precautions they are taking to ensure their staff is following proper protocols to ensure they do not spread the disease.”

3. Be assertive
Don’t shy away from conversations regarding home and personal hygiene. Make sure your provider is observing guidelines for handwashing and disinfecting surfaces and equipment. If your provider has access to masks and gloves, insist that they wear them. Have your provider use a different bathroom if possible. These actions will help to protect both of you.

4. Take extra measures to protect yourself and your caregiver
New Mobility.com advises wheelchair users to “regularly disinfect surfaces, especially those that are regularly touched. High-concentration (70%) ethanol alcohol mixtures, hydrogen peroxide and bleach are all effective disinfectants. Manual wheelchair users, especially those at higher risk of severe symptoms due to secondary complications, should consider regularly disinfecting their push rims. Bleach wipes are easy and effective.”

5. Hold residential facilities to enhanced standards
If you or your loved one resides in a group home, nursing facility, etc., make sure they are following recommended protocols such as: enhanced cleanliness; no visitation; staggered meal times, daily temperature taking and cancellation of group activities.

6. Have a back-up plan
If your caregiver becomes ill and is unable to come to work, be sure to have a back-up plan in place ahead of time. This is easier said than done, acknowledges New Mobility. Some solutions to consider include: asking friends or family members to help where they can; obtaining the proper supplies and training to complete certain tasks by yourself; and making others aware of your medical status and health care needs in case of an emergency.

Stay well!

Free Wheeling

Man in a AdvenChair hiking

If you, or your loved one uses a wheelchair you’re well-aware that accessibility is a major concern. Wheelchair users face many impediments when it comes to accessing restaurants, hotels, stores, transportation, historic sites and even city streets.

Wheelchair users who love the outdoors also face obstacles. In recent years, accessible trails and nature facilities have become more common, yet many wheelchairs aren’t designed to handle rugged terrains. Enter: wheelchair user, outdoorsman and athlete Geoff Babb. Babb, who lost the ability to walk after a near-fatal brain stem stroke in 2005, has invented a prototype for an all-terrain wheelchair he calls the AdvenChair.

After his stroke, Babb, formerly a fire ecologist for the Bureau of Land Management, was anxious to get back to his outdoor activities. Yet he found that his wheelchair wasn’t up to the task. He surveyed the all-terrain wheelchairs on the market but found that none of them met his needs. So, with the help of Dale Neubauer, a friend and helicopter mechanic, Babb “modified his regular wheelchair to give it beefier tires, a detachable front wheel, handbrakes on the handlebar, and a harness that would allow a small team to guide him up and down steep terrain,” according to AdvenChair.com.

The adapted wheelchair worked well, enabling Babb and his family to hike sites including Oregon’s Smith Rock State Park, Mt. Bachelor, Crater Lake and Mt. Rainier national parks. But in 2016, when he attempted to hike the Grand Canyon in the chair, it fell apart soon after departure. Not one to give up easily, Babb, his wife Yvonne, Neubauer, and computer-aided designer Jack Arnold went back to the drawing board where they developed the AdvenChair 2.0. The new chair is made from mountain bike parts, not wheelchair parts. This makes it more “durable” and “less expensive,” Arnold told NPR.

According to the AdvenChair website, the newly designed chair has “an adjustable sit-ski seat, adjustable handlebars, larger 27.5-inch mountain bike wheels and high-grade aluminum mountain bike components throughout.” The chair is “human-powered” (not motorized) and can be navigated by one to five people, says the website. It can handle rocky, soft or hilly terrain and its removable front wheels makes it easy for the chair to maneuver through doorways. It is easily dissembled and can be transported by car.

In 2017, when the AdvenChair 2.0 was in development, Babb suffered a second life-threatening stroke —12 years to the date of his first. After the debilitating stroke, Babb had to re-learn to swallow, chew and use his right hand. But it didn’t weaken his resolve to get the AdvenChair on (well off) the road. Currently, Babb and his team are fundraising so that they can bring the AdvenChair to market.

Babb says the effort is “not just for me, but for the millions of people around the world with limited mobility, and even more limited one-dimensional chairs.”

The Joffrey Ballet Company Presents Inclusive “Nutcracker”

Two ballerinas with disabilities

It’s “Nutcracker season” — the time of the year when ballet companies around the world entertain audiences with performances of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s classic Christmas ballet, “The Nutcracker.”

First performed in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1892, “The Nutcracker” didn’t become a holiday custom in the United States until the mid-20th century. The two-act ballet tells the story of a young girl and her favorite Christmas gift — a nutcracker who comes to life on Christmas Eve.

This season, the elite, Chicago-based Joffrey Ballet’s “Nutcracker” will include roles for Emma Lookatch and Larke Johnson, two young dancers with cerebral palsy, from the Joffrey’s adaptive dance program. The program serves students with cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, down syndrome and other disabilities.

The inclusion of a dancer with a disability isn’t really new to the Joffrey’s “Nutcracker.” The company’s former artistic director Gerald Arpino first created a role for a dancer with a disability in 1997 after 8-year-old Stephen Hiatt-Leonard, who has cerebral palsy, auditioned for the ballet’s children’s cast.

Emma and Larke aren’t really new to “The Nutcracker” either. Both danced in the Joffrey’s “Nutcracker” production in 2015 — the last year that the Joffrey performed company founder Robert Joffrey’s version of “The Nutcracker.”

In 2016, the Joffrey’s “Nutcracker” was re-envisioned by Tony Award-winning choreographer Christopher Wheeldon. Wheeldon’s version is set at the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893, (also known as the Chicago World’s Fair), twenty years after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Wheeldon’s “Nutcracker” also portrays a family and community markedly different than the ones in the traditional “Nutcracker.”

As described by WTTW’s Hedy Weiss: “… rather than focusing on the Christmas celebrations of the usual well-to-do family historically at the ballet’s center (whether set in Europe or, as in the long-lived version by Robert Joffrey and Gerald Arpino, in an upscale Victorian-era New York household), it focused on the community of cash-strapped immigrant artisans and laborers who lived and worked in the shadow of the fair.”

Emma and Larke will share the role of “Worker Girl,” a character who appears in Act 1 during the ballet’s iconic Christmas Eve party scene. The teens will dance in a late nineteenth century-era wheelchair.

Suzanne Lopez, who danced in Robert Joffrey’s version of “The Nutcracker” for 20 years, is now in charge of “The Nutcracker’s” children’s cast. Speaking with the Chicago Tribune recently, Lopez said Wheeldon “absolutely loved the idea [of bringing in dancers from the adaptive dance program] and thought it was a lovely way to honor the legacy of Joffrey and Arpino. … Also,” added Lopez, “this particular version of ‘The Nutcracker’ is so much about community. What better representation than that, that people come to the theater and look up on stage and everybody feels represented?”

Club 1111 Offers Nightlife to Those Living with Disability

Girl with Disability Dancing with her Mother

Almost everyone enjoys a night on the town. But for adults with disabilities, finding a safe, inclusive, accessible venue for music, dancing, socializing and romance can be a challenge.

Club 1111 in Baltimore, Md., makes the elements of a vibrant nightlife accessible to all. The only nightclub for individuals with special needs in Maryland, Club 1111 is also believed to be the only one of its kind in the United States!

On the second Saturday of every month, The League for Disability’s Baltimore headquarters is converted into a nightclub. According to the Baltimore Sun’s Yvonne Wenger, “the classrooms become dance floors with disc jockeys playing pounding club music. Merchandise, like sunglasses and blinking rings, is stacked up and ready to be sold, and volunteers wait in a makeshift spa to do fingernails and put on temporary tattoos. A lounge with dim lights is set up for chilling.”

A program of The League for Disabilities, a nonprofit that offers a variety of support services including day treatment, vocational training, camping and recreation, Club 1111 began as a fundraiser in 2015. As news of the club spread across Maryland, the crowds grew. Some nights as many as 700 people from all over the state visit Club 1111. Admission is $10 per person but caregivers and accompanying family members are admitted free.

According to Wenger, “most club-goers have intellectual and developmental disabilities, about a quarter use a wheelchair and roughly one in 10 have visual impairment.”

At Club 1111, adults with disabilities report that they feel free to be themselves, without fear of stigma or judgment. Those with medical or behavioral challenges, their families and caregivers can feel comfortable knowing that a nurse and behaviorist onsite at Club 1111 can intervene should an emergency arise.

“Hallways and doorways are wide enough for wheelchairs,” writes Wenger. “The flashing lights on the dance floor are programmed with the advice of a neurologist so they won’t trigger seizures. Sodas come in plastic cups with lids and flexible straws so they’re easy to drink and won’t be spilled.”

Ideally, The League for Disabilities would like to see people who live with disabilities engaged in a fully inclusive society. Yet, obstacles remain, particularly when it comes to socialization at bars, restaurants and nightclubs. Many aren’t wheelchair accessible and don’t have accessible restrooms. As one woman from the U.K. told Amelia Abraham of Vice, “I’ve got disabled friends who tell me they weren’t let into nightclubs because they were leaning on friends and the bouncers thought they were too drunk. Or because staff says people in wheelchairs are a health and safety violation, like their chairs are going to create an issue if there’s a fire.”

Said a man interviewed by Vice’s Abraham: When a club has no access, you feel hugely rejected, all the while knowing your friends are having fun without you.”

At Club 1111, these issues don’t exist. It’s hard to understand why more organizations and businesses don’t open nightclubs geared toward the needs of people with disabilities. Hopefully articles in publications like the Baltimore Sun and Vice, and blogposts like this, will raise awareness about the need for them.

Catch a Wave

2019.BlogCatchAWave

On March 25, 1996, 17-year-old surfer Jesse Billauer was at the top of his game. “I was one of the top junior surfers in the world, a month away from turning pro, when I pulled inside a barrel and got thrown headfirst into a sandbar. The impact broke my sixth vertebrae and I instantly became a quadriplegic,” Billauer writes on his website. From that moment on, the course of Billauer’s life changed dramatically. Initially, he thought his surfing career was over. But then he discovered adaptive surfing. In 2001, he founded Life Rolls On, a nonprofit “dedicated to improving the quality of life for people living with various disabilities.”  The organization offers one day surfing and skating clinics across North America. Billauer also became a world champion quadriplegic adaptive surfer in 2015.

Life Rolls On is just one of many surfing programs around the world that serve people with disabilities. According to the California Surf Museum, “Adaptive surfing has made a stratospheric leap both recreationally and competitively. Inventive board design collaborations, between adaptive surfers and shapers, have allowed athletes to perform on the world stage with mind-blowing results and achievements.”

But surfing isn’t only for competitive athletes. In fact, the sport has been shown to provide health benefits for everyone! Cardiovascular fitness, stress reduction, improved flexibility and muscle tone, and greater self-confidence are just some of the positive effects of surfing. Ready to try it? Check out this list of adaptive surfing programs.

1. Surfers Healing

Designed for surfers with autism, Surfers Healing founded by Israel and Danielle Paskowitz. The couple discovered that riding waves with his father (Israel Paskowitz is the son of Dorian “Doc” Paskowitz, Israel’s first surfer!) was the one thing that helped their son Isaiah, who has autism, to relax. Surfers Healing offers free 1-day “surf camps” to children with autism in coastal cities within the U.S. as well as in Mexico and Australia.

2. Surf for All

Inspired by Surfers Healing, Surf for All, a Long Beach, N.Y. nonprofit, teaches surfing to injured veterans, as well as children with disabilities such as cerebral palsy, blindness, and paraplegia. The surfing school was founded by brothers third generation surfers Will, 30, and Cliff Skudin, the owners of local surfing school, Skudin Surf. Well-aware of the “power of the waves and the restorative nature of the ocean” the Skudin brothers were convinced that “no disability was too daunting to prevent them from exposing others to the benefits of the ocean.” They offer adaptive surfing camps as well as Surf for All’s annual Surf Competition.

3. Surfers for Autism

Founded in Boca Raton, Fla. in 2007, Surfers for Autism’s mission is introducing children and adults with autism to “the healing powers of the ocean.” Since it began, the nonprofit has expanded to provide surfing experiences to people all over the state.  They routinely host 200 surfing students at their one-day events.

4. A Walk on Water

This nonprofit offers “surf therapy” to children with a variety of disabilities including blindness, autism and epilepsy. According to A Walk on Water’s website, “surf therapy is … a form of water therapy whereby the participant is introduced to the ocean and surfing through guided surf instruction, either tandem surfing with an instructor on the same board, or surfing solo with close instructor oversight.” Day-long experiences take place March–November on beaches in California, Texas, Virginia, New Jersey and New York.

5. Junior Seau Foundation

In partnership with the Challenged Athlete Association, the Junior Seau Foundation Adaptive Surfing Camp (named for the late football linebacker) provides 2-day surfing camps for children with disabilities such as paraplegia and spina bifida. The camps even offer mentorship opportunities with elite adaptive surfers!

Five Family Camps You Should Know About

Family of five sitting around a campfire

In recent years, more and more summer camps have created inclusive camping programs for children with disabilities. In these camps, children with disabilities experience camp alongside their typically developing peers. Other camps set aside designated weeks when they offer programming specifically geared toward children with special needs. But families who want their children with disabilities to enjoy authentic summer camp experiences also have another option — family camps! Like traditional summer camps, family camps offer healthy outdoor living and opportunities to sample new activities, acquire new hobbies, develop talents and practice socialization skills. Additionally, they offer families the chance to bond with each other as well as with other families who face similar challenges. Family camp is also a great way to help future campers acclimate to summer camp before sending them off to camp on their own. We’ve searched the internet and compiled this listing of family camps that serve families with children with special needs.

Camp Akeela
Located in Thetford Center, Vt., Camp Akeela serves campers with high functioning Asperger’s syndrome, non-verbal learning disabilities and their families. Parents and children participate in typical camp activities such as sports, arts & crafts, swimming, boating, campfires, climbing and ropes course. The daily schedule includes a mix of kids-only; parents-only and family activities. It’s not too late to register for this summer! Family camp runs from Aug.16-Aug. 21. Campakeela.com

Easter Seals Family Camp
Easter Seals runs two family camps, both of which are in Ontario, Canada. To be eligible, campers must be under 18 and have a physical disability. Each camp is five days long and features activities including games, crafts, archery, swimming and more. There is a mix of family, children’s and adult programming and families can participate in as many or as few activities as they like. Parents are responsible for their children’s medical needs, but supervision is provided during children’s recreational activities and childcare is available until 10 p.m. every evening.

Camp Merrywood in Perth, Ontario is in session Aug. 20-25.

Camp Woodeden, in London, Ontario runs from Aug. 4-Aug. 9.

Both camps are currently full but have waiting lists. Eastersealscamps.org

Whispering Winds Special Needs Family Camp
This Christian camp located about an hour from San Diego offers an opportunity for children with developmental disabilities, their parents and siblings to experience the joys of summer camp while communing with other families in a safe and accepting environment. While children and siblings participate in age-appropriate camp activities, parents have opportunities to take part in programming designed to strengthen and fortify their marriages. The camp’s staff includes special educators, developmental disabilities experts and trained buddies. Whispering Winds Special Needs Family Camp weekend takes place from July 26-July 28. Whisperingwinds.org

Camp Raman Tikvah Family Camp
Serving Jewish campers with developmental disabilities and their families, Camp Tikvah, in the Poconos Mountains, offers activities like music, Israeli dancing, arts & crafts, swimming and athletics as well as Jewish learning and Shabbat services around the lake. Each camper is paired with a buddy and special programming is provided for siblings. Parents are invited to participate in daily sessions about raising children with special needs. This year’s session takes place from Aug. 14-Aug. 18. Ramah.poconos.org

Joni & Friends Family Retreat
These week-long family retreats for families whose loved one has a disability not only offer traditional summer camping activities in a Christian environment, they also provide respite for exhausted parents. Camps’ grounds are entirely accessible and children are attended to by trained volunteers. Joni & Friends offers several different types of retreats in different locations including the Traditional Family Retreat, Urban Family, Single Parent Getaway, Wounded Warrior Getaway, and Marriage Getaway. The following Joni & Friends family retreats take place in the late summer:

Trout Lake Family Retreat, Potosi, MO (July 26-July 29)

Spruce Lake Family Retreat, Canadensis, PA (July 29-Aug. 2)

Bison Ranch Adult Family Retreat, Overgaard, AZ (July 31-Aug.4)

Bonclarken Family Retreat, Bonclarken, NC (Aug. 5-Aug.9)

Chicago Urban Retreat, Cedar Lake, IN (Aug. 11-Aug. 15)

Bonclarken Family Retreat II, Bonclarken, NC (Aug. 12-Aug. 16)

Twin Rocks Family Retreat, Rockaway Beach, OR (Aug. 12-Aug. 16)

Joniandfriends.org