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.

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.

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.

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.

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)