Summer camps offer your child a unique opportunity to learn, grow and make friends. Summer camps are often one of the best experiences for children to gain new experiences in a safe and fun environment. But, when you have a child with autism, it is important to choose the right summer camp; one that will fit the needs of your child and provide fun activities.
The following are questions to ask a summer camp before enrolling your child:
Start with the basic questions, such as:
- How long has the camp been in operation?
- Does it have all the proper operating licenses?
- Is it accredited with any organizations?
- What type of camp is it? Does it specialize in certain activities, such as computers, sports, outdoor? Is it a day camp or sleep-away camp?
- How many children attend the camp during each session?
You can usually narrow down camps based on the basic information and your child’s interests. If you are looking for a camp specifically for children with autism or special needs, be sure to include this question in your basic questions.
Now, ask more specific questions about the staff and policies:
- What is the counselor to camper ratio?
- Are background checks done on camp counselors?
- How old is the typical counselor? How many counselors are over the age of 18?
- Does the staff receive specialized training on autism and other disabilities?
- How much experience does the typical counselor have in working with children with autism and in inclusion practices (important if it is not a camp specific to autism)?
- What medical personnel are on staff?
- What medical facilities are nearby in case of emergency?
- What are the procedures for medical concerns, issues and emergencies?
- If your child takes medication, who administers the medication?
- What is the camp’s policy regarding discipline?
- How are challenging behaviors handled?
- How are conflicts between campers resolved?
- What types of foods are served?
- How does the staff respond to children who don’t eat the food?
- Does the camp work with food allergies or restrictions? Who monitors children with these?
You should be able to narrow your choices more based on the answers to these questions, for example, if your child has certain medical needs and a camp does not have someone on staff to address these issues, it would not be a good match.
Continue with questions about activities:
- What does a typical day involve?
- What types of activities are offered?
- Do the children get to choose activities?
- Are therapeutic activities (sensory integration, social skills, occupational therapy, equestrian therapy, language development) included in the curriculum?
- How successful has this camp been for other children with autism?
Finally, ask about references:
- What is your return rate? How many campers come back year after year?
- Can you give references of other families in a similar situation?
The last step is to make an appointment to visit the camp. If your child has physical restrictions, check the facilities to make sure he can easily navigate the camp. Be sure you feel comfortable with the director and other staff you meet during your visit. Look around for areas of concern, such as places your child can wander. Bring your child with you to see his reaction to the camp. Point out where activities take place and where he will sleep (if a sleep away camp.)
Published On: February 25, 2014