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Option #1: Special-Needs Camp

Summer Camp Options for Children With Special Needs

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The Painted Turtle Camp

The Painted Turtle Camp, a Hole in the Wall camp for kids with serious illnesses. (Photo by Giulio Marcocchi/Getty Images)

Camps designed specifically for kids with special needs -- from developmental differences like autism or intellectual disabilities to medical issues like diabetes or cancer -- are one good option for your challenged camper. Consider the pros and cons of this type of camp, then compare to other options like mainstream camp and Camp Mom.

Pros of a Special-Needs Camp:

  • Environment geared to your child's special needs.
  • Opportunity to socialize with peers with same disabilities.
  • Opportunity for networking with other families.
  • Expectation that all activities and rules will be appropriate for your child.
Cons of a Special-Needs Camp:
  • Camp may not be close by, requiring extensive transportation time or residential stay.
  • Tuition is often very expensive.
  • Since all children are different, even within the same disability, accommodations made for one child may be detrimental to another.
  • Reliance on high-school or college-age counselors to do most of the work with the campers may cause even a good program to be implemented improperly.
Questions to Ask about a Special-Needs Camp:
  • Are there adult counselors? With special-ed degrees and experience? How involved are they in the day-to-day activities of specific groups of campers?
  • Can my child have a one-on-one aide if necessary? How much will it cost? What will that person's age and qualifications be?
  • What are the rules in regards to discipline and behavior modification or management? Can my child have his or her own behavior plan? Who would administer that?
  • Is there transportation? Tuition assistance? Are there special services like speech, occupational or physical therapy? How much do they cost?
Next Steps:

Option #2: Mainstream Camp in the Community
Option #3: Camp Mom.

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