Choosing a Summer Camp

Blog: Choosing Summer Camp 2024

As winter winds down, summer may still feel far away. But it’s not too early to begin thinking about your child’s summer plans — especially if those plans include a summer camp experience. Enrollment season is well underway.

The benefits of summer camp are many. Camp provides kids with opportunities to build independence and improve social skills, and offers new experiences in the arts, sports and the natural world. Perhaps most importantly, it’s a chance for your child to make friends and have fun! (Camp can also provide some much-needed down time for parents!)

If your child has a disability, you may be nervous about trusting counselors, camp medical staff and others with their safety and well-being. That’s completely understandable. And that’s why selecting the right camp setting is so important.

Here are some tips to make the job easier.

1. Start with some guidelines
Before looking at specific camps, decide between day camp or overnight camp; consider the length of camp sessions; and determine whether your child will be more likely to thrive in an inclusive camp or in a camp specifically geared toward children with disabilities.

2. Do your research
Talk with other parents about their children’s camp experiences and consult with teachers and school administrators who are well acquainted with your child to see if they have recommendations. There are many good online sources that provide information about camps for children with disabilities. One reputable source is the website of the American Camp Association.

3. Interview camp staff
Once you have created a list of some camps that sound good on paper, reach out to each of these to ask questions and get a feel for its leadership. Share information about your child and their needs to make sure that the camp can accommodate them. Some questions to ask include:

    • Can the camp accommodate complex medical needs?
    • What level of training does staff receive?
    • What is the staff:camper ratio?
    • Is the camp/bunk accessible to wheelchairs?
    • Is there a sign language interpreter, closed captioning at camp productions, etc.
    • What are the activities offered and how are they adapted for children with disabilities?
    • Can the camp accommodate my child’s special diet?
    • How long are camp sessions?
    • How can I communicate with my child?
    • How close is the nearest hospital in case of emergency?
    • How is medication distributed?
    • What is the full cost of camp and are camperships offered?

4. Attend an open house
Many camps offer opportunities to visit camp to meet staff and fellow camp families. An onsite visit will provide a sense of the grounds, recreational facilities, and bunks. If an open house isn’t offered, request color brochures, camp program schedules, and DVDs that you can view at home.

5. Get references from other parents
Ask the camp to provide contact information for several parents of campers with disabilities. Talking with parents who share many of the same concerns as you, will go a long way toward helping you to make an informed decision.