Finding a Camp for Your Child With Special

    Ah, summer camp. The mosquitoes, the swim races,
    the friendships, the bug juice, the postcards
    home. What child wouldn't benefit from the fun
    and structured freedom camps provide?

    Kids with special needs are no exception. But the
    prospect can seem daunting to parents and kids
    alike — how can you be sure that your child will
    get the attention he or she needs? Will your
    child be able to participate fully? What about
    the other kids? Will your child make friends?
    Will they understand your child's special needs?

    The good news is that there are more camp
    choices now than at any other time for kids with
    special needs. From highly specialized camps to
    regular camps that accommodate kids with
    special needs, there are options for every child.
    With careful consideration of what will benefit
    your child most, along with thorough research,
    you should be able to find the right camp for
    your child.

    What Are the Different Types of Camps?
    When it comes to camps, kids with special needs
    have as many choices as other children. The
    Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires
    all camps to make reasonable accommodations
    (such as the installation of wheelchair-accessible
    ramps) so that kids with special needs can attend.
    So, camps that had never had a child with special
    needs attend before may now be on your list of

    Inclusionary (or mainstream) camps do just what
    their name implies: They include kids with special
    needs in their groups of children with regular
    needs. These camps may have started out serving
    only a general population of kids, but they've
    gradually changed as the needs of the families
    they serve have changed.

    There are also camps designed just for kids with
    special needs, including kids who have learning or
    behavioral problems, kids with specific chronic
    illnesses, and kids with mental or physical
    impairments. Many of these camps accept kids
    with a variety of needs, but some camps only
    accept kids with specific problems (such as
    camps for kids with diabetes, cancer, speech or
    hearing impairment, cystic fibrosis, cerebral
    palsy, epilepsy, etc.).

    Within all of these categories, you'll have even
    more choices to consider in terms of duration,
    philosophy, and cost. There are nonprofit and
    for-profit camps, religious camps, camps run by
    national organizations, private camps, day camps,
    camps that run weekend sessions, and sleepover
    camps that accept kids for the entire summer.

    What Are the Benefits of Camp?
    The benefits of camp for kids with special needs
    are often the same as they would be for any child:

    increased confidence and independence activity
    and exercise the opportunity to interact with
    other kids, develop friendships, and build
    relationships positive role modeling by adults a
    chance for parents to have a likely much-needed
    break Independence is another benefit that camp
    can provide. For example, an overnight
    mainstream camp can give a special-needs child
    the chance to be without parents, doctors, or
    physical therapists for a
    week. This allows children to do more things for
    themselves and learn how to ask friends to help.

    Learning that their peers or other adults can
    help them is also valuable for kids with special
    needs. Children can learn to be assertive in
    problem-solving and communicating needs.

    In addition, camp provides the physical benefits
    of increased activity as well. Many kids with
    disabilities or chronic illnesses are sedentary
    and don't often participate in the sports or
    recreational activities that their peers do. They
    therefore miss out on the social and health
    benefits that exercise brings. Camp provides a
    variety of activities such as swimming, wheelchair
    racing, dancing, tennis, or golf. These give
    immediate health benefits in terms of improved
    cardiovascular fitness and also provide
    recreational options that can carry over into
    adult life.

    In addition, many camps combine learning
    environments with these physical activities,
    giving kids with behavioral or learning problems
    the chance to develop, or catch up on, needed
    skills during the summer.

    Starting Your Camp Search
    A good way to begin looking for a camp is to
    make several lists that establish the basics
    you're looking for: a list of goals, a list of
    caretaking priorities, and a list of other
    considerations (such as cost).

    You'll also need to figure out which type of
    camp might best suit your child:

    inclusionary (or mainstream) camps
    camps for kids with a specific special need
    camps for kids with many different kinds of
    special needs.
    When trying to find the right camp, consider
    whether your child has ever been away from
    home, for the weekend or even longer, and what
    experiences might have helped prepare him or
    her for camp. This will help you to decide not
    only the type of camp, but whether your child is
    ready for a day camp or a sleepover (residential)

    Involving kids in the camp search will help to
    ensure that they get the most out of the camp
    selected. So, ask kids the following:

    What do you want to get out of summer camp?
    What are your preferences?
    Do you want to go to a coed camp, or just be
    around kids of the same gender?
    Are there any activities you really want to try?
    Would you be more comfortable going to a camp
    with kids who do or don't have special needs?
    Are you comfortable being away from home? If
    so, for how long?
    Do you have classmates or friends who have gone
    to a summer camp? If so, which ones? And did
    they like it?
    If it turns out that the idea of camp is a bit
    overwhelming for both you and your child, you
    might want to try starting small, like weekend
    sessions at a special-needs camp.

    Doing Your Research
    Whatever type of camp you're leaning toward,
    it's important to do your research. And there are
    plenty of places to get information on camps
    these days. The American Camp Association
    (ACA), for example, has an online listing of
    special-needs camps that's broken down by the
    types of camps, cost, length of stay,
    state/region, and campers' ages. The site is also
    loaded with general as well as age-appropriate
    advice for parents of would-be campers.

    You can also call local chapters of major
    disability organizations to find out what camps
    are available in your area. Many organizations
    publish lists of camps and can connect you with
    camp directors and former campers.

    In addition, you might be able to find a special-
    needs camp fair in your area. Check the calendar
    listings in your local newspapers and monthly
    parenting magazines. Many of these are held in
    January or February, which means that you need
    to start your camp search early.

    Of course, part of your research will involve
    figuring out what you can afford. The cost of
    camps varies widely, with some high-end special-
    needs camps costing thousands of dollars for
    multiple-week sessions.

    Although you can help fund your child's camp
    experience by applying for scholarships, experts
    say you should make sure to do so from
    December through March, because the money is
    gone by April or May. You can contact
    charitable organizations and fraternal
    organizations (such as the Lions, Kiwanis, and
    Rotary Clubs, all of which sponsor special-needs
    camps). And depending on your child's specific
    special need, he or she may be eligible for
    financial aid from your state. Other sources of
    scholarships include religious or ethnic charities.

    One thing to bear in mind, though: You usually
    first need to find a camp that's willing to take
    your child — most of these organizations send
    the scholarship money to the camp in the child's
    name, not to the parents directly.

    Questions to Ask
    So, how do you narrow down your choices and
    pick the camp that's right for your child? Some
    basic and special-needs- specific questions you'll
    need to have answered include:

    How long are the sessions?
    What's the cost? Are scholarships available?
    Is it coed, girls-only, or boys-only?
    What's the age range of campers?
    Where is it located — and how far away from
    your home is it?
    What's the staff-to-camper ratio?
    How old are most of the counselors?
    What type of certification do the counselors
    What's the turnover rate? Do kids and staff
    come back?
    What's the camp's philosophy? Does it fit with
    your goals for your child?
    What's the camp's transportation system like?
    If physical accessibility is an issue, what's the
    layout of the camp?
    What provisions has the camp made (or can it
    make) for wheelchairs or crutches?
    If your child needs a special diet, can the camp
    provide appropriate meals? If not, can you
    provide food for your child?
    Do staff members have a background working
    with kids with special needs?
    Do the counselors have first-aid training?
    What kind of medical staff is available in the
    infirmary and during what hours?
    Can the staff administer any medications your
    child needs?
    If your child has behavior problems, what's the
    training and experience of the available staff to
    help? And how does the camp staff handle
    behavioral problems?
    What's the procedure if your child develops a
    complication related to his or her medical
    problems? How far is the nearest hospital? If
    your child needs specialized treatment, is it
    available at that hospital?
    Although you can get some of this information
    through phone calls, emails, brochures, and
    websites, experts recommend visiting the camp.
    You can talk to the director, visit the site, and
    get a comprehensive picture of where your child
    will be.

    Probably the only way to get a true feel for the
    camp is for you and your child to visit it
    together. This is especially important if your
    child is going to a regular (inclusionary or
    mainstream) camp where they haven't dealt with
    many children with special needs, because it gives
    you the opportunity to point out changes they
    might need to make and to gauge the reaction of
    the camp's staff to your requests.

    If you can't visit a camp, interview the director
    and some staff members to get a feel for the
    place. Ask them to describe the physical layout
    and the kinds of activities your child will do. You
    should also ask to speak with other families
    whose children have attended the camp to see
    what their experiences were like. In fact, word
    of mouth is one of the most effective ways to
    find out what you need to know about each camp.

    As you're trying to figure out which camp is
    best, just remember that whatever the special
    need, there's likely a camp out there to suit your
    child. With some research and understanding
    between you, your child, and the camp director,
    your camper-to-be will likely be well on the way
    to having an unforgettable summer.

    Reviewed by: Steven J. Bachrach, MD
    Date reviewed: October 2007

    Emotional/Behavioral Issues

    Camp Attaway

    Day camp for children with emotional and
    behavioral disorders
    Columbia, Maryland, Ages 7-13, 410-730-2633

    Camp Greentop

    For individuals with emotional and multiple
    disabilities and their families.
    Catoctin Mountains National Park, Maryland,
    Ages 7-adult

    Kidz Clubhouse

    Themed camps for kids with and without
    Ages 5-22, Great Falls, Virginia, 703-438-8370

    Fairfax County Government

    Fairfax County Park Authority
    The FCPA offers inclusion opportunities in
    summer camps for residents of Fairfax County,
    Falls Church City or the City of Fairfax as well
    as out-of-county residents. Only the Rec PAC
    Summer Camp program is closed to out-of-county
    residents. Camps open to all disabilities.
    Ages 3-16, 703-222-4664,

    Fairfax County Department of Community &
    Recreation Services Therapeutic Recreation
    Services Summer Recreation Camps for
    Individuals with Disabilities.

    Provides children with disabilities the
    opportunity to engage in a variety of recreation
    activities with non-disabled peers in large group
    Grades 1-6, 703-324-5532,

    Fairfax County Office for Children SACC
    Summer SACC Camp Discovery 2009

    Fairfax County, Ages 5-12, 703-449-8989


    Art at the Center, 2804 Sherwood Hall Lane,
    Alexandria Virginia-just down the street from
    the Sherwood Hall Regional Library,

    Looking for high-quality, low cost art materials
    for using at home this summer?  We sell new,
    renewable clay in amounts for use at home and in
    the classroom.  We also provide training and
    support in the use of clay and other art
    materials.  Let us know what you are interested
    in and we'll help you figure it out.

    All programs have 2 professional teachers for a  
    low student-teacher ratio, allowing for focused
    attention and small group work.  Drop-off
    sessions are designed for children who are
    comfortable separating from a parent and are
    toilet trained.

    Register early as class sizes are limited.  Fees
    include all materials.

    Sensory Motor Integration

    Basic Concepts

    Full and half-day camps to improve sensory
    integration, speech, language, and social skills.
    Ages 3-9, Rockville, Maryland

    Camp Littlefoot @ Treatment & Learning

    Therapeutic camps for sensory integration,
    speech/language, learning enrichment and
    Ages 3-13, Rockville, Maryland, 301-738-9691

    Summer Camp

    O.T. Foundations Camp
    6179 Executive Boulevard, Rockville, MD 20852

    A fun-filled occupational therapy camp providing
    intensive handwriting and reading intervention
    along with Tae Kwon Do and Art.  Limited to 8
    campers per session.

    Lowell School Summer Programs

    Camps to enhance sensory motor development,
    Ages 4-10
    Washington, D.C., 202-577-2006,

    Sense Abilities for Kids ~ Camp Sensational

    Based on the principles of sensory integration in
    a fun-filled environment. All children are
    welcome. Leesburg, Virginia            

    Sensational Explorers Day Camp

    Camp for high functioning children with sensory
    integration needs
    Ages 5-10, Burke, Virginia,
    703-978-6532, www.sensorycamp.citymax.

   *Skill Builders

    Designed for children with sensory integration
    difficulties as well as speech and language
    delays. Ideal for children between the ages of 3
    and 5 to provide them with an engaging social
    atmosphere that emphasizes sensory activities
    through play with peers.

 * Speech and Language Center of
Northern Virginia Summer Camp
    Dolley Madison Summer & Drama Camp 2012
    June 25th - July 19th, 2012

    Come and join our four week Summer Camp where
    we will have fun and adventures exploring
    different worlds using imaginative play, special
    projects, art, music, games and more.  Our camp
    follows our Dolley Madison Preschool inclusion
    model.  3 to 4 spaces in each class are reserved
    for children with speech and language needs.  
    These children receive an hour of speech and
    language therapy each week during their camp
    Available for kids ages 3 to 6

    Please visit for
    more information on our summer camp and to
    download an application.

    Summer Adventure Program by Lynn Israel &

    Therapeutic camp to enhance sensory motor
    Ages 4-11, Washington, D.C., 202-244-8089,

    Social Skills

*  Autism Education Solutions
    Tracey Greenwood, Owner and Founder
    Located in Ashburn, VA but serving all of
    Northern Virginia

    Social Skill Play and Leisure Groups
    Structured social skill play and leisure groups
    for children with developmental delays, language
    delays, social skills impairments and Autism
    Spectrum Disorders aging approximately from 2
    to 15 years old will be provided to address your
    pragmatic, communication and play/leisure skill
    needs. Pragmatic skills addressed will include
    joint attention, initiation, negotiation,
    compromising, communication, imagination and

    The groups normally are set up in the natural
    environment of a home or other mutually agreed
    upon space and typically run one-two times a
    week for 30-60minutes over an eight week span.
    The group usually consists of a child with special
    needs and 2 typically developing peer models.
    Typically developing peers should have age
    appropriate social and play/leisure skills. Group
    size will depend upon the targeted children’s

    Parents are encouraged to form the playgroups,
    however, Autism Educational Solutions can assist
    with networking as needed.

    Goals from each child’s Individualized Education
    Plan (IEP) will be selected to measure progress
    and an assessment will be completed to determine
    your child’s needs for the social skill group.
    Based on the assessment, our team will develop an
    Individualized Social and Play/Leisure Skill Plan.
    The group will be structured and led by
    specialists with parental training to assist in
    supporting the group if interested and needed.

    The structured social skill groups will follow a
    consistent ritual and utilize play/leisure theme
    choices that are of high interest and age
    appropriate to the children in the group. All the
    materials needed to structure and support the
    social skills playgroup will be provided.

    Educational Consultation/Advocacy

    Services for Families

    Autism Educational Solutions supports the unique
    needs of families that have a child with an autism
    spectrum disorder. Our independent team has
    extensive training and experience using a variety
    of research-based strategies in the school and
    settings. We can provide expertise in all areas of
    educational programming. Some examples of the
    services we provide are:

    • Completion of educational assessments
    • Review of existing educational evaluations
    • Review of your child’s current Individualized
     Education Program (IEP) with recommendations
     for improvement
    • Preparation of your child’s present levels of
     educational performance, recommended goals and
    • Parent preparation for IEP meetings
    • Parent and caregiver training to address goals in
      the home setting
    • Assistance with organizing and visually
      structuring play space areas to meet your
      child’s needs
    • Toilet training as well as systems to address
      self- help skills
    • The creation of data collection systems to
      review progress
    • Development and training on the implementation
      of Functional Behavior Assessments

    Information about Tracey Greenwood

    Tracey Greenwood is the owner and founder of
    Autism Educational Services. She holds a
    special education teaching credential in early
    childhood and grades kindergarten through
    high school. Tracey has a B. S. degree in Special
    Education from Ohio University and a M. A.
    degree in teaching from National University,
    graduating magna cum laude from both schools.
    She has 17 years experience in the public schools
    as both a special education teacher and an
    Autism Program Specialist. Tracey has over 400
    hours in training on Autism Spectrum Disorders
    and research-based related strategies and
    methodologies. These research-based strategies
    and methodologies include Applied
    Behavior Analysis (Verbal Behavior, Discrete
    Trial Training and Pivotal Response Training),
    Structured Teaching Model (TEACCH),
    Floortime Model, Picture Exchange
    Communication, Sensory Integration and Social
    Skill Strategies. She brings experience in
    developing, implementing and supervising
    developmentally appropriate programs for
    students with Autism Spectrum Disorders. This
    includes utilizing a variety of assessment tools
    and developing Individualized Education
    Programs. She has worked directly with parents
    by leading parent support groups, conducting
    training and implementing strategies in the home
    setting. Tracey has also been an adjunct
    professor at George Washington University,
    teaching graduate students in elementary and
    special education. In addition, she has supervised
    students in their university teacher training

    * Basic Concepts

    Full and half-day camps to improve sensory
    integration, speech, language, and social skills.
    Ages 3-9, Rockville, Maryland, 240-447-8013,

    Summer Social Groups with Kate McClain

    A social group is the perfect opportunity for
    your child to maintain and improve social,
    communication, and play skills over the summer in
    a small group of similar-age peers. The main goal
    of these groups is to help children feel confident
    and successful in social situations by providing a
    structured, supportive environment in which to
    explore and play. Please see below for
    descriptions of groups, broken down by age:

    Ages 3 to 5 (pre-K and K): Little ones will
    improve social interaction and communication at
    they engage in sensory exploration, arts and
    crafts, fine and gross motor play, simple games,
    pretend play, and more!

    Ages 5 to 7: Kindergarten and primary school
    kids need to know how to play and talk with
    other children in many different contexts,
    including on the playground, in the lunchroom, on
    a play-date, and at home. Facilitated play is one
    of the best ways to help them learn to do this!

    Ages 8 to 11: In the upper elementary grades,
    play becomes more sophisticated and centers
    around favorite interests. Though one of the
    goals of this group will be expanding interests,
    favorite interests will be used for motivation
    during various activities, including active games
    (think Pokemon Tag), board games, sports, and
    playground games. We will also discuss “pop
    culture” topics such as current books, movies,
    music, etc. Depending on the group, we may go on
    some outings, such as to a local restaurant or

    Teens/Young Adults: I will teach social and
    communication skills as well as practical skills
    through activities and outings based on the
    participants' interests and abilities. We will
    work on expanding interests through discussion
    of pop culture topics. Possible excursions include
    taking the Metro, walking to a restaurant, buying
    stamps at the post office and mailing a letter, or
    planning and inviting a friend to a party.

    Please contact me for schedule and fees

    Fee includes a gluten-free, nut-free snack, where

    *Sessions that have children with nut allergies
    will be nut-free, and sessions with children who
    are on a GF diet will be GF.

    Register early; groups will be limited to 5
    children (4 children in the 3-4 year old group)
    and fill up fast! Email me at, call me at 571-312-
    2704, or check out my website, www.katemcclain.
    org, for more information.    

    Expressive Therapy Center
    Xpress Yourself Social Skills Camp,
    14808 Physicians Lane, Suite 111, Rockville, MD

    Camp attendees will be involved in a number of
    therapeutic activities that include such topics as:
    Self-esteem building
    Bully Busting
    Expressing Feelings
    Making & Keeping Friends
    Setting Goals
    Problem Solving
    Organizational Skills
    Conflict Resolution
    Reading Verbal & Non-verbal Cues

    Groups utilize developmentally appropriate
    activities that may include:
    Role Playing
    Relaxation Techniques
    Creating “All About Me” Books
    Art & Games
    Traditional Therapeutic Techniques

    SUMMER BUDDIES - Social Skill  Playgroups
    full of
    summer fun and friends!

    Summer Buddies provides inclusive summer
    playgroups for children with and without
    disabilities. The program, in its seventh year, is
    run by Angela Nance and Sarah Lubin, two highly
    experienced Masters' level special educators.

    Playgroups are held 3 days a week, for 3 hour
    sessions, in the morning (10a.m.-1pm) or afternoon
    (3p.m.-6p.m.), from 6/28-8/6 at Christ the King
    Church in Silver Spring, MD. Little Buddies (3-5
    years) and Big Buddies (6-8 years) will
    participate in a variety of fun and educational
    summer activities that aim to enhance and
    increase their social skills, and foster rewarding
    friendships with a diverse group of children.

    Funding opportunities and sliding scale payment
    options are available!

    For more information and registration info,
    please visit our website
    We look forward to hearing from you!

    Angela Nance, M.Ed & Sarah Lubin, M.Ed
    Summer Buddies Co-Directors  
    301-642-0844 (Angela)
    201-803-0170 (Sarah)

    Creative Health Solutions
    Therapeutic Social Group Camps for children
    with AD/HD, autism spectrum disorders,
    emotional disabilities & learning disabilities.  
    Fairfax, Virginia.  Ages 2-12.  703-910-5006

    Inova Kellar Center

    Small therapeutic environment with emphasis on
    improved social skills and self-esteem
    Ages 6-12, Fairfax, Virginia, 703-218-8500

    North Star Academy Day Camp

    Day camp that stresses cooperation and social
    Ages 5-15, Richmond, Virginia, 804-747-1003,

    Stepping Stones to School Success

    Summer program for social skills
    Ages 5-12, Fairfax, Virginia, 703-876-8480,

    Chesapeake Center
    Speech/language, PT and OT therapy sessions
    Ages 3-6, Springfield, Virginia, 703-924-4100

*  Sensational Summer Camp

    Socialization and Sensory Integration
    Leesburg, VA, Ages 4-10, 703-858-7388,

    Sense-Ational Play Time

    Therapeutic summer camp staffed by
    speech/language therapists
    Ages 3-5, Rockville, Maryland, 301-942-6006

    MIW (Move into Writing) Occupational
    6179 Executive Boulevard, Rockville, MD 20852

    MIW Therapy is a pediatric occupational
    therapy clinic specializing in the treatment of
    dysgraphia (handwriting difficulties). Our core
    program, Move into Writing, teaches handwriting
    in a fast-paced, multi-sensory, and systematic

    Handwriting problems often occur in combination
    with fine and gross motor coordination
    difficulties. Identifying the presence of these
    underlying motor issues is a critical part of the
    diagnostic process which provides a solid
    foundation for comprehensive treatment of the

    In addition to occupational therapy services, our
    practice also provides Reading tutoring using the
    Phonographix method.

    Summer Camp

    O.T. Foundations Camp
    6179 Executive Boulevard, Rockville, MD 20852

    A fun-filled occupational therapy camp providing
    intensive handwriting and reading intervention
    along with Tae Kwon Do and Art.  Limited to 8
    campers per session.

    OT Ventures, LLC will be running our highly
    successful multi-day camp program again this
    summer in Ellicott City, MD.

    Children learn through their senses. This camp
    program is designed to be both fun and
    educational for children. Children will
    participate in multi-sensory activities to improve
    their social interaction, sense of movement,
    touch, taste, and sound, as well as fine and gross
    motor coordination.

    This amazing camp program will be led by a multi-
    disciplinary team of Occupational Therapists, a
    Speech Language Pathologist, and a Special
    Education student.

    For more information, please contact Jamie
    Levine, OTR/L at or

    SUMMER PROGRAMS, 6179 Executive
    Boulevard, Rockville, MD 20852,


    The MIW Handwriting Curriculum and the Phono-
    Graphix Reading Program form the foundation of
    our intensive instructional approach to writing.
    Campers participate in Tae Kwon Do and Art &
    Craft classes that are structured to target
    specific fine and gross motor goals. Remediation
    strategies for early elementary age children with
    written language problems include instruction
    and practice using appropriate pencil grip,
    correct letter formation and uniform letter size,
    practice to increase fluency and direct
    instruction to improve writing organization.

    Children's Speech Therapy Center,
    ASHBURN: 44025 Pipeline Plaza, Suite 105,
    Ashburn, VA 20147, 703-858-7388, www.childrens-

    This Summer Children’s Speech Therapy Center
    will be offering Social Language Skills Camps in
    our new Ashburn facility.  These camps are
    designed specifically for children who need to
    enhance their social and language skills to better
    interact with their peers.  


    Burgundy Farm Summer Day Camp Co-ed
    traditional camp

    Ages 3-15, 703-960-3431,

    Camp Virginia Jaycee

    Camping opportunities for children and adults
    with special needs
    Ages 5+, 800-865-0092,

    Challenger Baseball Skill Builder Camp

    Sports camps for mentally and physically
    Ages 6-18, Virginia & Maryland, 888-854-5608

    Challenger Baseball

    Little league baseball for kids with disabilities
    Ages 4 - 21, Springfield, Virginia,

    Freedom Center Special Needs Camp

    Recreation and sports camp
    Fairfax, Virginia, Ages 6-12, 703-993-8444,

    National Ability Center

    Adventure camps that include horseback riding,
    water skiing, cycling and canoeing, Park City,
    Utah, All ages, 435-649-3991,

    Rivers Way Outdoor Adventure Center

    Outdoor adventure and recreation summer camp
    with rafting, hiking, climbing for disabled and
    non-disabled Bluff City, TN,
    Ages 10-18, 423-538-0405,
Summer Camps
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