Integrated Camps can be a wonderful experience for a child with special needs, Camps can offers a many great experiences. Finding the right fit for your child can be challenging. Integrated camps can provide
special opportunity to build social, communication, cognitive and sensory skills, in a fun, engaging and accepting camp culture. I find skills learned naturally are for life. Finding a good camp for parents who have a child with special needs can be difficult, see our List of Summer Camps in Ontario,
What does Should A Good Camp Do? (The following is an Real Experience For Niam At An Integrated Camp)
1. A Visual Schedule Is Provided To Children With Special Needs.
I love I don’t have to call the camp, find out the daily activities, stay up all night, make a visual schedule for Niam to prepare him. Not only does the camp make a detailed two week visual schedule for their special needs campers, imagine my surprise and delight when I received it in my inbox a week in advance. My excited Niam read it over and over again, digesting it, preparing himself for his next adventure. The camp provides a camp social story explaining the first day of camp to all those parents who need it.
2. All Special Needs Children Are Integrated and Included.
I am always looking for programs for Niam to be integrated, he learns essential life skills and social skills by being around other children. He is developing conversational skills, using deodorant after swimming classes, stepping out of his routine, comfort zone and, trying new activities like arachary, rock climbing and canoeing.
3. Have The Availability of One-On-One Staff
I don’t have to search for a one-on-one support, put out ads, interview potential candidates, train… The camp provides parents with the option of sending your own support or using one of the camps trained counselors. All the counselors are great, they are trained in inclusion, a child is NEVER left out of the activities, behaviours, outbursts and any other issue that may arise are dealt with in a positive manner.
4. Communicate Everyday With Me
Sending Niam to a camp without a one-on-one support I personally know is difficult. The support and communication, I receive from the camp leaves me content, I don’t spend my days worrying about Niam, nor am I left wondering if he is okay, having fun, sad or missing me. The camp provides a visual communication book, it lists all the activities he did, if he had fun, and how he did. There is a corresponding page for me to fill out about Niam’s evening and sleep routine. Niam loves to fill out what he did in the evening himself and how he felt, a new milestone for my budding autism artist and aspiring autism model. I receive a daily personal email about Niam’s day from the group head, the bus counsellor walks Niam to the door, and tells us about his bus ride. I LOVE!
5. Insist On A Culture of Acceptance
The camp insists all children are included, teaches other campers about inclusion, patience, making friends with children like Niam and helping them out as friends. This is great for Niam’s self esteem. What child does not want to have friends or be accepted? I have been at the camp for the last 8 years, without any issue, and let me tell you, I am one picky and outspoken autism mommy.
6. Indirectly Teach Skills
By dividing Niam by age into appropriate peer groups, Niam learns to play and interact in everyday settings, to learn social skills and make friends. Niam is encouraged to participate in group activities like soccer and baseball instead of focusing on individual play. Every year Niam makes leaps and bounds at camp.
7. Safety is Upmost Importance
I am sure parents with special needs children can agree with me, we worry about safety, at times the topic can be self consuming. Yesterday, I received a phone call at 5:30 pm from the camp owner, the camp bus stopped in front of our house, Niam ran to the door and let himself in, the staff were worried if anyone was home. I was very impressed with the protocol, the counselor called the office, the head of the unit got in touch with the owner, and I received a personal worried phone call from Sari on Niam’s safety and possibly being in the house alone. I immediately called my husband and told him to step outside and let them know a parent was home, he told me the bus was waiting outside with worried counselors.
What makes a camp special? In my books this is a paramount reason, – Safety, Caring and Genuine Love for the Well Being of My Child.
When you know your child is safe, it is possible to enjoy your day more, I have worry free days, enjoy the sun, walking and being able to take time to enjoy the small things in life.
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