By Michael Rock:
Summertime can be difficult for children with disabilities and their families. While parents usually work during the summer months, many summer camps are unwilling or unable to be as inclusive of campers with disabilities as they should be. Fortunately, there are numerous programs throughout the US that are specially developed to accommodate various types of disability.
Some, such as Sioux City, Iowa’s Camp High Hopes, may last a full eight weeks and hire counselors from all over the world. Others, like Minnesota State University’s Disability and Sport Camp in Mankato, may last only one week.
Such camps may offer memories of a lifetime of memories, including Clear Creek County, Colorado’s Rocky Mountain Village, whose teenage campers eagerly await the prom that concludes the summer each year.
They may also feature in-depth specialized programming, such as that offered at Washington’s Bremerton YMCA, which may include various games and sports, field trips, and weekly activity themes, along with intensive training for counselors and alternative mediums of communication when campers cannot indicate their frustrations verbally.
Parents can better determine the best camp experience for their children by speaking with other parents and checking to see if they qualify for an extended school year on their child’s individualized education plan which would provide them with some limited degree of schooling in the summer. It may also be wise for parents to begin their search locally. In some cases, specialized sleepaway camps can be great for kids with disabilities while also providing parents some respite time.
As summer comes to an end and kids go back to school, parents should know that there are multiple options to ensure that next summer can be as enjoyable and meaningful as possible.
Michael Rock is a New York City-based reporter and self-advocate with autism. A graduate of Brandeis University, his work has appeared in Kings County Politics, Chelsea Now, Our Town, Queens County Politics, and WhoWhatWhy.