Many mainstream camps make accommodations for kids with special needs. Whether or not these camps are a good choice depends on your child’s physical or behavioral needs. If you are considering a mainstream camp, make sure to inquire if there are medical personnel at the camp who can properly care for your child in case of an emergency. Find out what their medical emergency policy is and what hospital would be used if an emergency took place.
Some camps are designed just for children with special needs, including kids who have learning or behavioral problems, those with specific chronic illnesses and children with mental or physical impairments. Some of these special needs camps are not condition-specific; but most are designed for children based on a specific need or condition.
Finding the right camp
To find a camp that is best suited for your child, use the following tips:
- Start by making a list of goals and priorities you have for your child’s camping experience. Some camps are strictly for fun; others incorporate coping skills for special needs.
- Then consider which type of camp might best suit your child:
- An inclusionary (or mainstream) camp
- A camp devoted to your child’s specific need or condition
- A special needs camp that focuses on more than one illness or condition
- Consider whether your child has ever been away from home, for the weekend or even longer, and what experiences might have helped prepare him or her for camp. This will help you to determine not only the type of camp, but also whether your child is ready for a day camp or a sleepover camp.
- Cost may also factor into your decision. Some special needs camps are funded through foundations and donations; others offer “scholarships” or reduced fees depending upon family situations and needs.
- Don’t be hesitant to ask questions before making your decision, or if the camp is nearby take your child for a visit. Both you and your child need to feel comfortable with your choice.
Camps for kids with special needs
Use this guide to help find camps for kids with special needs, including:
Camps for children with cancer
- Camp Dream*: (Free) Medically supervised experience for children and families affected by cancer located in Montana.
P.O. Box 1450
Missoula, Montana 59806
- Operated by Children's Oncology Services, Inc. (COSI)*: One- to two-week camps offer children with cancer a chance to experience carefree fun with other kids just like them.
213 W. Institute Place, Suite 306
Chicago, Illinois 60610
- TLC Camp*: (Free) Local weeklong summer camp that offers adventures for children with cancer and their siblings. Sponsored by the Lombard Junior Women's Club.
P.O. Box 512
Lombard, Illinois 60148
Camps for children with special medical needs
- The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp*: (Free) Summer get-away camp that serves thousands of special needs campers throughout the United States.
565 Ashford Center Road
Ashford, Connecticut 06278
- Victory Junction*: (Free) Summer camp experience for children facing medical challenges.
4500 Adam's Way
Randleman, North Carolina 27317
- Youth Rally*: Provides a non-threatening environment where adolescents with bladder or bowel dysfunction receive education and psychological support while having fun meeting children with similar challenges.