3 Tips to Create a Successful Summer Camp Experience for your Child with Special Needs

Believe it or not, it’s time to start thinking summer! Time for families start making plans for summer camp. We understand that planning for summer camp can be stressful for a parent of a child with special needs.  Summit DD’s Assistant Director of Inclusion, Lynnette Klejka, has three helpful tips for families looking at summer camp options.

“We want to make sure every child is set up for success,” shared Klejka about how Summit DD helps to support organizations around Summit County, like summer camps. “We can design trainings to fit the specific needs of the camp. What we’ve learned is that a strategy developed for one child, can be helpful to all children,” she continued.

Klejka also offers the following three tips to help families get the most out of their summer camp experience:

Be Open an Honest

This is probably the most important tip of the three. Klejka stressed that being open and honest with the camp you are considering will help them best meet your child’s needs. Be sure to let them know if there are any accommodations that your camper needs or any limitations they should know about. Your summer camp wants your child to be successful just as much as you do. If they have the background and knowledge about your child’s needs, they can create the right support system to help your child be successful.

Ask about experience

When talking to a potential camp, Klejka recommends you ask about any experience they’ve had with kids who have developmental disabilities. Find out how they accommodated other children in the past. She also encourages parents to ask about trainings camps have had to support kids with different abilities

“Just because a camp may not have had experience in the past with a child who has a disability, doesn’t mean they aren’t open to learning,” cautions Klejka. If a camp tells you that they do not have experience, but would be willing to learn, Klejka and her team are available to help. “We offer training and resources to Summit County camps,” she explained.  “Trainings cover topics like inclusion, universal design, person-first language and awareness for an array of disabilities.”

Set realistic expectations

Above all, Klejka recommends looking for a camp that will benefit your child the most – a camp that works with his or her strengths. She encourages you to think about what you want your child to get out of their camp experience to help steer your decision.  While it’s good to have goals, Klejka cautions it is important to be realistic with those goals. Stretching expectations too far can frustrate a child and have the opposite effect. “Camp is meant to be fun. It’s a place where kids can make meaningful friendships,” Klejka shared. Finding a camp that fits your child’s strengths can really help them grow and enjoy the experience.

Get support

Summit DD is a community resource that helps people with developmental disabilities reach their full potential. And we want to give Summit County camps the tools to help their campers with disabilities reach their full potential too. If you know a camp that could benefit from our resources and trainings, contact us. Let us help your camp make the most out of your camper’s summer experience.

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