Choosing Summer Camp for Children with Special Needs

I was chatting with a co-worker of mine last week about her plans for her soon to be first grader this summer. She was talking about the variety of camp options there are, but how expensive they are and how the part-day hours are not compatible with those of a working parent. I empathized with her, but started to panic a bit about what kind of care we’ll have to find for Max next summer when he’s no longer in child care.  I’m not sure that the choices typically open to 5-6 year olds will be the right choice for him. He tends to overheat, so I’m not sure a traditional day camp where he’ll be outside all day will be the right fit. Anywhere where they swim is going to require a second thought because counselors need to be extra diligent because of his epilepsy (not that they shouldn’t watch other kids just as closely). Some kind of half-day program won’t work well with my work hours, and hiring a nanny, while an attractive option, worries me because I work from home. I’m not sure I’d be able to tune them out all day. (As a side note, are there other work from home parents who have nannies in their homes while they work? If so, I’d love to hear how it works for you.)

I think we’re just going to have to take a leap and consider our options just as we would for Ben, our “typical” child. Just as we are with school next year (having Max ride the bus vs. driving him, participating in the YMCA after-school program with little to no structure), we’re going to have to trust that Max can handle it before ruling things out without knowing otherwise. We’re also going to have to be diligent and observant and make sure this new independence is working to help him, not working against him. This whole thought process has really opened my eyes to how much I’ve been trying to protect Max and how much I need to let him spread his wings a bit more.

I wonder what others with children who have moderate special needs do. What kind of after-school or summer programs have worked well for your children?

4 thoughts on “Choosing Summer Camp for Children with Special Needs

  1. Denise, thanks so much for your comment. While Max does have some other issues, the over stimulation your son experienced sounds exactly like Max. I’m totally afraid he’ll shut down and just sit in the corner or at table my himself. Guess I won’t know until I try though.

  2. Fortunately many summer camps offer before and after care. We tend to look at the main hours and the additional cost of before and after care as something “extra”. However, when you do the math, it works out pretty much the same as a daycare type program.

    I know that places like the Y have air conditioned areas. We like the Park Rec camp in our town very much. However, it is not air conditioned (at the moment, they are working on it). You can check your town to see.

    I tend to be a “set their wings free” kind of Mom. The way I look at it is that someday they have to go out into the real world and I won’t always be there for them. It’s not easy. My head says set them free but my heart says: “Oh my God, are they alright? Will I get a call? Are they sick, are they hurt? Are they safe?” It’s tough but they are quite independent and I think it’s because I keep those worries to myself (well, maybe I share them with my husband).

    My son had some pretty difficult issues when he was younger as he suffered from what the psych evaluator called “over-stimulation disorder”. If you put too much demand on him he’d just shut down and either lose his temper or crumple into a little ball on the floor (he grew out of it Thank God). We signed him up for the local Park Rec camp, explained the situation and how to handle it and they did just fine. He had a great time and loved going back every year.

    I say, try him out. See if the program you sign him up for will agree to sign him up on a weekly basis so if it’s not the right fit you can move him on or choose the nanny approach instead.

    Good luck!

  3. Hi, Kris-Ann. I work from home full-time while a nanny watches my boys here in the house with me. I love it, it’s perfect for us! I have an office in my basement but, like ScienceMomArlene said, the nanny knows to keep the kids away while I’m working. I like to be able to hear them running around upstairs and it’s not distracting to me.

  4. I don’t have a nanny or work from home but do know a few people who work from home a few days a week with a nanny there and they love it. They can take lunch with their kids but while they are working the nanny knows to keep the kids away and takes them out to play or to another part of the houe where they will not be distracted.
    As for summer camps or before and after school programs for specail needs, again I don’t have personal experence, but have heard of many of them out there. Some are specifically for specail needs children and others have a mix of both but people who are trained to handle situations if they occur.
    I know the daycare we use runs a summer camp as well as a before and after school prgram and they will take special needs children. They just want to know everything up front to make sure they are ready for anything that may occur. Those children are allowed to do eveythign the others are doing but are watched a little bit more closely. They do indoor and outdoor activities everyday (weather promiting) and they do field trips. They try to make all the kids feel equal, but at the same time take their needs into consideration.

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