Friendship Circle Logo
Pure Friendship for Individuals with Special Needs
Ilana Danneman
More, Parenting

8 Benefits of Sending Your Child with Special Needs to Overnight Camp

Hi Ho! Hi Ho! It’s off to camp we go! There are specialized camps for children with special needs like autism, ADHD, abuse, cancer, hemophilia, muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy and other serious illnesses. Whether you choose a local camp or an overnight camp is a family decision, but an overnight camp may be something worth suggesting even for a child who may not consider it as an option for themselves. Though most camps have great websites these days, before packing up that weighted sleeping bag, you may want to request a personal interview with the director either in person, phone or by video chat to gain more insight. Talking to someone who has attended the camp or someone on staff can also provide you with great information.

The Appeal Of Memories

I have such fond memories of camp, both the day camp and the overnight camp I attended. Yet it was the overnight camp that left me with lasting impressions. There’s a large sign over Camp Barney Medintz, where I went to overnight camp, that says, “Every Child Makes Himself Known by His Own Doings.” I used to ponder that sign each time the bus drove under the wooden arch and onto the long dirt road in the North Georgia mountains. My summers were filled with learning skills I had never, nor would ever, try with a parent nearby as well as making friends, singing songs and yes, even learning how to deal with a little homesickness and challenges. But at least part of who I am today is in no doubt a result of my summers spent away from home. Today, there are so many camps to choose from that even children with special needs have a plethora of choices. If you can visit the camp ahead of time, that’s even better for both you and your child. Be sure you understand the camp philosophy, camp emphasis and how they run their camp and select staff. Be sure to inquire as to how their staff is oriented and for how long. What is the electronic policy? Is there parent/camper contact during the session and how? How will your child get his medication and specialized food if necessary? What does a typical day look like and what are the activities he will be doing? Lastly, consider returning your child to the same camp year after year. Though it’s great to go even for one summer, there are lasting benefits to returning year to year.

Outstanding Benefits Of Going To Camp

1. Like-Minded Friends

Sending your child to camp can provide them with like-minded friends who understand one another. Your child may or may not have a social network of friends. Camp can offer them the opportunity to find people who have their similar disability and can relate to their day-to-day challenges.

2. New Skills

Camp can also provide children with a chance to soar outside of your home and school. That means your child may learn new skills otherwise not acquired. Things like horseback riding, zip lining, hiking or arts and crafts can be experienced and even mastered during the summer and provide children with a great feeling of accomplishment and success on many levels.

3. Sense of Self

Camp provides a place for self-discovery. This goes along with developing new skills but actually builds self-esteem. It’s not just about learning the skill, but about failing and learning outside of the academic atmosphere.

4. Lasting Friendships

Along with like-minded friends, your child can gain long-term friendships and develop social skills that can last a lifetime. There is no price tag for that. Though you may think your child is okay being alone, having a least one friend can have a significant impact on your child’s self-esteem and overall well-being.

5. Getting Unplugged

Is your child a techno addict? Maybe just a little bit each day? Just because they absolutely cannot cope without video games? A week or more without electronics may absolutely change your child and send you home with someone you hardly recognize. But even if not, your child may learn to fill that brain space with real life communication skills. Unless your child is nonverbal and using an electronic as a speech tool, a camp with a "no electronics" philosophy could do everyone a world of good.

6. Gaining Independence

You may think your child will not brush her teeth for a month, but counselors are trained to be sure your child is well cared for and learning to take care of themselves. Being away from mom and dad can give your child a strong sense of independence.

7. Problem Solving

Along with independence, camp provides wonderful opportunities to develop problem solving and organizational skills from how to make clean underwear last until the next wash to how to climb over the rock wall. This is not about solving equations, but about real-life skills.

8. Take a Break

Let’s face it. We can all use a well-deserved break from our kids. Sending a child to overnight camp can give you quality time with other family members. Use the time to get to know your spouse and other children and purge the rooms that you know need a good once-over. Then choose something special and treat yourself to it, even if it’s just a daily walk outside. You will be a better parent when your child returns home. Happy camping! And here’s to a wonderful upcoming summer for you and your children!

WRITTEN ON March 16, 2016 BY:

Ilana Danneman