A summer camp adventure provides all children with opportunities for adventure, play and learning. But if your child has Down’s Syndrome, finding the right camp requires special care. You can choose an integrated camp or one designed for children with special needs; you may even opt for a camp that encourages a specific hobby or favorite sport.
Assess your child’s comfort with being away from home, as well as her individual temperament when choosing a summer camp. If she happily stays with friends or family for several days at a time, she may be ready for a sleep-away camp designed for kids with disabilities or one that integrates children of different ability levels. Kids who struggle with overnight separations will be happier in a day camp environment so they can return home to sleep each night. Extroverted kids who thrive in school and other group situations may be ready for residential camp before a shy, introverted child is. Some camps welcome siblings or even families, allowing a child who isn’t ready for residential camp by himself to enjoy the experience surrounded by familiar people.
Choosing a Camp
The traditional camp experience includes swimming, hiking and other outdoor activities with friends and counselors. Other camps like Dream Power in Alpharetta, Georgia, offer horseback riding, arts activities or sports. Opt for a camp designed for kids with developmental disabilities or Down Syndrome specifically, or choose an integrated camp experience for your child. Think about what you’d like him to most come away with from his camp experience — new friends or new skills, for example — and choose a camp accordingly.
Location and Duration
Residential camps range from just a few days in length to full summer programs, while day camps can be just a week long or offer care and activities throughout the summer months. While day camps are located close to home, longer residential camps may be just a few hours away or a long distance from home. Some camps provide year-round respite care for kids with Down Syndrome. Check with your local Down Syndrome or special needs support association regarding camps in your area.
Focus on your child’s individual abilities and needs when selecting a camp. A child who independently handles personal hygiene, dressing, and social interactions may flourish at an integrated camp, while a child or teen with support or medical needs may find that a camp designed for children with special needs is a better fit. Some camps designed specifically for campers with Down Syndrome welcome campers up to age 21, making them an appropriate choice for older teens.
While camps for special needs kids often come with substantial price tags, financial aid may available. In some cases, full scholarships may allow you to send your child to camp for nothing more than the cost of transportation. If you feel that an integrated environment is ideal for your son or daughter, YMCA, scout, and church camps are typically less expensive than specialized camp environments and can still offer a memorable and enjoyable camp experience.