2 Questions That Must Be Asked When Considering a Special Needs Summer Camp
Associate director of Camp Simcha Special, Rivkah Reichmann, suggests the two most important questions parents they need to ask when selecting a summer camp experience for their special needs child.
Question 1: Will the camp meet your child's health and safety needs?
Health and safety are the most important concerns. Parents should ascertain that the camp's facilities are appropriate. If the child needs a wheelchair or walker, there should be easy access to every building so that the child can participate in all aspects of camp life. Equally important, maintenance and cleanliness standards must be high.
Parents should research the camp's medical program: Are there staff members who can deal with day-to-day needs and emergencies? Does the camp have emergency procedures? What about medication? Injections? Does the camp feel confident that its medical staff can deal with your child's health requirements? Do you?
Question 2: Will the camp meet your child's social and emotional needs?
Summer camp is about friends and fun, but it's also about growth and self-enhancement. The best camp for your child will allow him or her to shine through friendships and new skills. When the choice is between a "normal" camp and one designed for children with special needs, parents should consider the child's social life throughout the year. Children who have to work to keep up may do better in a camp where everyone is working at their pace.
"Sometimes, children with illnesses or disabilities are the only kids who are sick in school. They are labeled. They feel left out. They may have few friends. These children may do better in an environment of peers, where all the children are struggling with similar challenges," says Reichmann. "They learn to appreciate their own strengths and differences. They are no longer isolated. The 'bump' they get at camp may be enough to make a difference all year long."
Camp Simcha Special is a camp for chronically ill children and teens in Glen Spey, NY. Reichmann has counseled hundreds of parents since the camp was established in 2001. Email her with your questions: firstname.lastname@example.org