Camps for Children with Special Needs
(page 1 of 2)
Summer camp teaches independence and social skills, provides physical activity and gives kids a chance to unplug from technology. For children with special needs, a camp experience geared toward their disability can provide even more.
When Karen Beach (a pseudonym) from Gladwyne, PA, chose a camp for her 15-year-old daughter with Asperger syndrome, she prioritized the ratio of counselors to campers. At Camp Pegasus, a social skills day camp in Rosemont, PA, for ages 6-15, two or three counselors to every camper means that Beach’s daughter has constant support. The camp’s structure and useful lessons also impress Beach.
“Kids need a structure to count on, knowing when they are going to have a particular activity,” she says. “They learn to resolve conflicts and how to talk to each other using facial expressions and words.”
Camp Pegasus employs mental health therapists who work with campers on anxiety, anger management and impulse control. The camp offers a reward system that encourages campers to practice social skills and earn prizes along the way. “Our kids have a lot of frustration, and our staff praises positive behavior while giving compassionate social coaching during difficult moments,” says camp director Mike Fogel.
Campers learn skills they can apply in their daily lives throughout the year.
At Camp Freedom Diabetes Camp for Kids, a residential camp for ages 7-16 in Schwenksville, PA, children with diabetes learn how to self-administer insulin. At United Cerebral Palsy of Delaware’s Camp Manito, a day camp in Wilmington, DE, role-plays offer lifelong lessons.
“Sometimes we observe a not-so-positive interaction between kids, and the staff will develop a social skills activity to encourage a more positive and accepting dialogue,” says Alice Stumpf, Camp Manito administrator.
At Camp Lee Mar in Lackawaxen, PA, they complement traditional camp activities with academic and speech programs. Camp director Ari Segal says, “We follow each child’s IEP so when the children return to school, they pick up right where they left off at the end of the school year.”
See page 2 for more benefits of camps for children with special needs.