Many camps offer programs to children with special needs including physical challenges, medical conditions, and developmental, behavioral, or learning disabilities. Whatever their mandate, and whether the camp provides shadows or support staff or requires parents to send someone familiar and experienced in working with their child, these camps have facilities that are adapted for children with special needs and medical/camp staff who are trained to work with these campers.
Some camps integrate children with special needs into their general program; others are entirely devoted to children with specific needs. Both aim to challenge the kids and offer them a rewarding time at camp.
Why attend a special needs camp?
Kids who attend these kinds of specialty camps have the extra comfort and confidence of being with peers who have similar experiences and staff who understand their specific needs to fully support them and ensure an enjoyable time at camp.
Find the right special needs camp
When searching for a special needs camp, start by researching the location, programs, and other specifications that are important to your family and your child ahead of time. Some camps integrate children with certain needs, others are wholly focused on assisting the camper and their facilities are adapted for the child’s well-being.
Most camps take food allergies very seriously and put a lot of effort into prevention. (It’s still worth asking about camp policies; and make sure you inform the camp of any allergies beforehand.) Camp management and staff work hard to ensure that if some campers have food allergies - the most common being peanuts - food containing the allergen doesn’t make its way onto campgrounds.
Staff are trained to be vigilant about potentially harmful foods, know that they can be dangerous to a camper’s health and to take the food if they see some and bring it to dispose of per camp policy.
Chefs and kitchen staff are trained to read every label on every ingredient they buy in order to keep the dangerous allergens off camp property.
While staff is diligent on the prevention side, training to administer an EpiPen injection in case of an anaphylactic reaction is an important part of the overall safety strategy. Some camps will also prevent those with anaphylaxis from participating in certain canoe trips.
Because of the potential for an allergic reaction to occur, coupled with being in the remote wilderness, camps may decide it is too much of a safety risk to send the child.
Camps are also good at accommodating for non-life threatening food issues like Celiac’s Disease, gluten and lactose intolerances. Kitchen staff will prepare foods that will provide nutritional value and help prevent flare-ups from food allergies.
To ensure the best fit for your child, ask about:
Be upfront and provide complete, accurate and up-to-date information about your child’s needs and medical requirements. You want to ensure the camp can adequately accommodate your child.
Reprinted with permission by Our Kids, ourkids.net. Trusted by Canadian parents since 1998, Our Kids is your source to the best summer camps, private schools, and extra-curriculars. Get the information and feedback you need at ourkids.net.
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