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Summer Camps for Children with Special Needs

Jamie Sumner
Special needs mom and author
06/14/22  10:29 AM PST

Summer Camp Offerings for Children with Special Needs

Summer is awesome! No school! No schedule! No need to be anywhere at any particular time! But also, summer is tough. No school. No schedule. No need to be anywhere. If you have a child with special needs, routine and familiarity are crucial and summer can often be more stressful than stress-free. You want your child’s mind and body to be engaged, maybe not to the strictest extent that it is in school, but enough not to lose the momentum of intellectual and physical and emotional development that occurs during the nine months of the academic year.

My son Charlie will be ten this summer and I have developed a patchwork of summer activities for him. It’s a quilt of mismatched but well-loved places and things he likes to do. Charlie has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair to move and speaking device to communicate. Because of these things, some camps and extracurriculars are unavailable to him. As much as I would like to live in a world where every activity is one hundred percent accessible, this is just not the case. However, what he does do, he loves. He rides horses year-round at a therapeutic riding center. He attends summer school at his local elementary school. He does water camp two weeks at his old special needs preschool. They outfit the inclusive playground with sprinklers and water balloons and sensory-friendly pool play. This is what works for him.

If you are looking toward summer with equal parts excitement and anxiety, here are some resources to help you find a good fit for your child:

  1. Top List of Best Special Needs Camps

This site has a handy resource that lets you search the list of best camps by state and by special need.

  1. Camp Sno-Mo

Based in New Hampshire, this camp is run by the Boy Scouts of America for children 11-21 with special needs.

  1. Talisman Camp

This overnight camp in North Carolina offers Autism, Asperger Syndrome and ADHD-based activities that emphasize building social skills, leadership, independence, and self-esteem.

  1. The Children’s Association for Maximum Potential

This Texas overnight camp is fun choice for children with special needs who also want to attend with their siblings.

  1. Camp Meadowood Springs

Located in Oregon, this camp offers a program specifically for speech that incorporates language therapy into traditional camp activities such as canoeing, zip-lines, and arts and crafts.

  1. Camp No Limits

Offered in various states, this camp provides physical and occupational therapy for children with limb loss. Therapists work alongside prosthetists and adult amputees to provide encouragement and skill-building for campers.

  1. Deaf and ASL Camp

This Maryland camp offers traditional camp-based activities for deaf children as well as ASL camps for hearing children to learn sign language alongside their deaf peers.

  1. Dream Catchers’ Inclusion Summer Camp

This therapeutic horseback riding camp at the Cori Sikich Therapeutic Riding Center in Virginia teaches children of all ages basic horseback riding skills in both mounted and ground lessons.

This list is a meant to be a taste of the variety of camps offered to children with special needs around the U.S. I would encourage you to ask your child’s therapists, physicians, and fellow parents of children with special needs for opportunities in your area that might be the best fit for your child.

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