How to Find the Right Special Needs Summer Camp

How to Find the Right Special Needs Summer Camp

Summer may be months and months away, but with so many camp options for kids, and so many factors involved in making a decision, it’s smart to start making plans sooner rather than later. This is especially true when it comes to summer programs for special needs children. Finding the right match for your child can be a daunting task, but here are some import things to consider.


What do you want your child to gain from their summer experience? Are you looking for a fun, social program or a therapy-based curriculum that will help your child gain or maintain skills? Would they do best among children with similar challenges, or would you like them “mainstreamed” with typically developing peers?

If you decide on a program for typical kids, is the camp willing to work with you on providing the support your child may need for behavioral, communication or sensory challenges? What motivates your child, and is the program able to supply it? The bottom line is finding the right fit for a successful experience.


Another consideration is the organization of the camp. What types of activities will your child be engaging in – movement, table top, circle time?  Is there a set schedule? Many children with challenges benefit from having a structured, predictable routine.


Where is the camp located and in what type of environment is it set? How many hours/days will your child attend, and can your child handle being in the particular setting for that amount of time? What is the cost and are there opportunities for scholarships? Note that many programs require application months in advance. In addition start looking for scholarships or grants. To start you can check out these summer camp grants.

Camp staff

Who is in charge of the program and what is their philosophy? Do they provide specific goals for the children? What is the turnover rate among employees? What are the qualifications of the staff and volunteers who will be with your child?  Is ongoing training provided to staff?

Medical issues

Is the staff trained to handle any medical concerns your child may have? Is the environment friendly to your child’s diet restrictions?

Lots to think about, right? Although a long list of questions can be overwhelming, carefully considering each topic will organize your thoughts and help you to realize what’s most important as you make the final decision. Good luck!


Written on 2012/02/08 by:


Jessica Hunt is the director of occupational therapy and sensory integration programs at the Kaufman Children’s Center. She has extensive experience in pediatric occupational therapy and sensory integration in both the home and clinic settings. For more information on available programs, call 248-737-3430 or visit
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  • Malana0530 Jw

    I need help finding a special needs summer camp for children 5 years old with autism in Charlotte North Carolina for free or inexpensive.

  • Denecemoore

    im trying to find summer activities for my six year old son but he functions as a 3yr and 3mth old level and still wears diapers

  • thelma LUna

    I have a child that has a learning disabilities. I am very frustrated because he does not cooperate to anything we want him to do. Which camp should I put him. He has a EIP? I am looking in orange county, CA a camp that will  suit to his needs. Please help me.