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What to Look for When Choosing a Special Needs Summer Camp for Your Child

Dr. Judith Greenberg for
Are you thinking about summer and how quickly it has gotten here this year?

What will your child or teen who has Autism, Asperger's, ADHD, or other LD issues do to grow and be entertained during these months? The best way to start answering these questions is to consider whether your summer time child is a "couch potato" or adventure lover. Is she/he ready for a sleepover camp or just day- time activities? How much travel can this person handle? Do you want a week, two-week sessions of multiple choices, or one 6-8 week long program?

Seriously, consider the type of specialists you think the camp should have on staff to accommodate your camper's needs. Besides the well trained counselors with experience in working with special needs students, you might ask about the following, if you think they are essential: OT, Speech-Language Therapist, or Behavioral Therapist. Also ask: ratio of campers to counselor, the population mix of campers, activities that you know your camper will like and others you'd like him/her to learn.

There are a multitude of special camps, many in business for over 50 years, specializing in high functioning Autistic and Asperger's children, teens, and young adults. (Also ADHD, LD and other special issues.) I searched for a few as examples and found them all over the US, and Canada. They range from one-week arts and crafts camps, to travel, water rafting and even surfing camps!

Below are a handful of camps that intrigued me. I also included a few search starters to help you do your search. Happy hunting and enjoy your summer! Tell the camp you select to call ISER.COM so more specials needs families can find a good camp for this summer and more summers to come. All of the camps listed below specialize in working with campers who have issues and needs. The staffs are trained for these campers and facilities can support their needs.

Camp Buckskin, Ely, MN
Camp Type: Residential, traditional camping with academics & social skills

Frontier Travel Camp , Miami Shore, FL
Camp Type: Travel Ages 16+ Travel program for teens with special needs

CIP Summer Program, MA, FL, CA IN
Camp Type: Residential/High School Two weeks on a US college campus

Camp Ko-Ach Adventures, Temagami, Ontario, Canada
Ko-ach means strength and it is the mission of this non-profit camp to cultivate individuals' strengths of character, confidence, independence, respect and trust in each other and themselves.

Camp Connect, MA
Camp Type: Day This is a multiple session camp with an "I Can, I Will" attitude!

Camp Huntington , High Falls, NY
Camp type: Residential 7 weeks for children and young adults with special needs

Clearpool Summer Program , Carmel, NY
Camp type: Residential Serving campers 5-18 who are experiencing emotional, behavioral, social and/or learning challenges in a 6-week program.

Camp Discovery, Pacific Palisades, CA
Camp Type: Day An outdoor day camp is for mild to moderate special needs campers, 3-10

Camp Lee Mar, Lackawaxen, PA
Camp Type: Residential Located in the Pocono Mountains, this over 50-year old program is geared to the individual needs of campers

Blue Compass, Seattle, WA
Camp Type: Resident, day adventure, and travel trips

Extreme Sports Camp, Aspen, CO
Camp Type: Residential Older children with autism spectrum disorders can safely engage in sustained physical activities.

Camp Walden Summer Program, Edison, NJ
Camp Type: Day -- Specialized program for children (ages 3-8) with Autism and related developmental disabilities.

Summer Sensations, Columbia, MD
Camp Type: Day -- Sensory motor/processing full day camp

Sense Abilities for Kids, Leesburg, VA
Camp Type: Day -- Offering gym, arts and crafts, dance and more for children, ages 3-10.

If these camps are not near you or what you are looking for, then your searches can generally begin on Google with any of the following:

  • Camp Easter Seals: These camps run from theater arts to music to surfing to social thinking and are found throughout the US and Canada.
  • The Jewish Community Center: If one is in your area, check to find out if they have inclusion programs in their camps. These are extremely well run and students do well.
  • Local Y programs: Summer at the Y is great and many programs may be appropriate for your child.
  • Public school & recreation dept. programs: Most schools or recreation departments have special programs during the summer. Check for availability early.

To do a general search, start with: camps for aspergers and austism/autistic children (or teens) in (your area). There are many more than I knew about and hopefully you can find a good match that will mean a happy summer for your child. Talk to counselors and special education teachers at your child's school to see if you can find additional information about local, school, county, or even personal experiences these people may have with special camps.

Dr. Judith Greenberg is the President of School Finders, LLC
which school, program, and college placement; special education and special needs advocacy; expert witness services, and tutoring. School Finders provides tutoring via Skype anywhere and everywhere. You can contact her at: .

Disclaimer: Internet Special Education Resources (ISER) provides this information in an effort to help parents find local special education professionals and resources. ISER does not recommend or endorse any particular special education referral source, special educational methodological bias, type of special education professional, or specific special education professional.


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