A child with special needs does not mean they cannot participate in fun summer camps. Many camps offer a one-on-one helper or “buddy” with medical knowledge and include everything accessible on the grounds. Children with physical or intellectual disabilities can enjoy days of fun indoors and outdoors with adventurous activities tailored to their special needs. Summer camps for children with disabilities help empower them to do things they have never done before, gain a sense of accomplishment, and make new and lasting friendships.
Types of Camps for Children with Disabilities
Camps for Children with Specific Disabilities
There are different types of camps for children with special needs depending on what kind of disability they have. For example, there are camps designed for children with learning or behavioral problems, camps for children with physical impairments, and camps for children with specific chronic illnesses like cancer and cerebral palsy. If your child has ADHD, autism, Down Syndrome, or is deaf or blind, some camps cater to those needs, too.
Inclusionary Camps for Children with Disabilities
Other summer camps are considered mainstream or inclusionary. These camps are a mix of children with disabilities and children with everyday needs.
Other Options to Consider When Choosing a Summer Camp
When choosing a summer camp for children with disabilities, other options are to consider. Within either a camp for children with specific disabilities or an inclusionary camp, these are some of the options to think about:
- Length of stay
- Non-profit and for-profit camps
- Religious camps
- Private camps
- Weekend only camps
- Day camps
- Entire summer camps
Summer Camps for Children with Disabilities
American Camping Association (ACA)
Search by zip code on this website to find summer camps for children with disabilities. You can refine your search by disability or special needs, activities, camper age, cost, etc. Children will learn valuable life lessons in character building, skill development, and living healthy lifestyles.
CampResource.com – Online Summer Camp Directory
These are some of the best links to research summer camps for special-needs children. You can choose from the different types of special needs each camp specializes in, day or overnight options, and camp locations in all United States and Canada.
The League for People with Disabilities, Inc. – Camp Greentop
This summer camp is located in Maryland and encourages personal growth and independence in all participants. Their goal is to “provide joyful, life-changing experiences in a safe environment and build meaningful relationships in the lives of youth and adults with disabilities.” They offer six different programs that range from traditional camps, weekend retreats, and travel camps that allow campers to take destination trips with travel staff experienced in special needs.
Camp Courageous – Specializing in Children with Autism
Camp Courageous is located in Iowa and is an excellent camp for children with special needs, especially those with autism. Summer camp at Camp Courageous is a week-long, and children participate in activities that ensure they get the best learning experience and growth opportunities.
Camp Dream is located in Georgia and caters to children of all ages and disabilities. Nearby lakes and hiking trails make this summer camp perfect for outdoor education. The staff at Camp Dream are 100% volunteers with a 1:1 camper to staff ratio. Every child gets the attention they need for four days at this summer camp.
Friendship Circle Camp
Friendship Circle Camp is a summer camp for children with disabilities located in Michigan run by the Friendship Circle, a non-profit organization helping people with special needs. Children explore the outdoors, are entertained with live performances by entertainers and musicians, and participate in hiking, sports, swimming, etc. The Friendship Circle even offers a scholarship for families that need assistance sending their children to camp.
Friendship Circle has also created its own resource for 25 summer camps for individuals with special needs.
National Ability Center Camps
The National Ability Center Camps are located in various places throughout beautiful Utah. There are many camps offered specifically to certain ages and disabilities. They not only offer summer camps but opportunities throughout the year. The adaptive recreation camps that the National Ability Center provides help build relationships, learn new skills, and have memorable experiences.
Benefits of Summer Camps for Children with Disabilities
The camping experience can help enrich the lives of children with special needs. At camp, children are encouraged in a supervised, positive environment where safety is a primary commitment.
Some of the benefits of camps for children with disabilities include:
- Physical exercise through activities
- Intellectual stimulation
- Increased independence
- Increased confidence
- Developing new friendships
- Building relationships with others
- Improved social skills
- Character building
This list of summer camps for children with special needs doesn’t end here. We encourage you to do some research specific to your concerns and your child’s needs. Make a list of basic needs, preferences, costs, activities, and length of stay.
If your child has a disability that requires the use of incontinence supplies, catheters, or ostomy supplies, be sure to include these special needs in your research for a camp that can provide an environment your child will be comfortable. Make sure to have a conversation with the camp staff to ensure your child’s unique needs can be met. Camping should be fun for everyone!