how to choose a camp for special needs kids

How To Choose a Camp For Special Needs Kids

Summer is camp season! There are all kinds of wonderful camps your kiddos can take advantage of. However, there are several things to think about before choosing a camp.

Consider your child’s abilities:

One thing I always ask my parents to do when selecting a camp is to think about what their child’s abilities are, and what kind of camp it is. It’s important that your child’s abilities match what the camp offers. We see all the best that our kids can do, but sometimes they don’t function as well with people they don’t know, in an unfamiliar setting. Often times their functional level at camp is a little different than what we see at home. We always recommend evaluating a camp program based on your child’s abilities, looking at their social issues, emotional issues, developmental issues, or all of the above. It’s important to evaluate the camp realistically in terms of your child’s abilities.

Consider what will happen when things go wrong:

A good rule of thumb is to select a camp that can manage your child on their worst day. If we don’t do that, the camp experience can end up being a very unpleasant experience for your child. It also makes the camp staff reactionary rather than proactive. It’s so important to make sure the camp is the right fit!

What do you want the camp to accomplish?

I know this as a parent because I raised two children who had a lot of those issues. I know the feeling of “I just need a break!” I get that! But if you choose just any camp so that you can get that break, it could spell disaster. Just like we prepare for school, or for a trip, or all of the many things we prepare for, remember that our kids don’t transition well, and they struggle with new environments. So we want to make sure that when we send them to that camp, that the camp is prepared and the child is prepared. This is critical for their success and for making it a therapeutic, fun process and not a disaster. None of us want to get a phone call like the ones I’ve gotten: “Your child’s not doing well at camp today, can you come get them?”


None of us want to do that! The phone number comes up on our caller ID and our hearts start pounding as we wonder what’s happened. If we choose the option of rolling the dice on a camp, not being careful about which camp we choose and not preparing for it, there’s a good chance that camp will not be successful.


So please, look at the camp, and look at your child’s abilities. Look at what you want to accomplish, and facilitate a positive experience.


If you have any questions about how to choose the best camp for your child, talk to your child’s clinician. They’ll be happy to give you some pointers and some things to think about!


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