If you have a disabled child, you may worry that they aren’t having normal childhood experiences. One of the many disability camps across America can help your child have a home away from home experience.
Types of Camps
There are three types of camps which account for and include those with disabilities.
Inclusive camps bring together those with and without disabilities to enjoy recreational experiences. These camps may be best for children who do not require extreme medical or social supports and can adapt to situations around them.
Segregated camps provide programs for those with disabilities and those without in separate groups. These camps provide recreational programs designed specifically for campers with disabilities, and are more able to adapt to those with slight medical and social supports.
The final type of camp is one that is designed to provide all medical and social supports your child may need, especially for those who would be excluded from attending and enjoying other camp settings. These camps are able to ensure a safe and fun time for each camper.
Within each type of camp, there are some that only accept child campers, while others are designed for adult campers.
Camps for All Ages
Despite the similarities between disabled adults and children, camps for adults and children have been shown to reveal different themes among the campers.
According to the Sociology of Sport Journal1, the major themes revealed among disabled adults include feelings of surveillance and self-policing of behavior, resistance to this surveillance, and feelings of empowerment arising out of resistance with group solidarity.
The major themes revealed among disabled children, according to the Adapted Physical Activity Quarterly3, include realizations of not being alone, independence, and a chance to discover new things. Disability camps for children were especially helpful in providing a landscape for exploration of individualism, identification with a group of common mindedness and experience, and sharing in the collective experiences and interests of others with disabilities.
Both adult and children focused camp programs allow attendees to learn from other participants along with building lasting friendships with others with disabilities.
What They Do
Disability camps can be a great source of caregiver respite. If you are the main provider of care for your disabled child, you know how exhausting it can be. Every caregiver needs a break from time to time to focus on themselves and relax. While some camps only provide daytime activities and therefore daytime respite, other camps have overnight, weekend, and week-long programs that can provide plenty of time for you to recharge.
Camps also provide a vacation away from home for those with disability. For some, a great majority of time is spent inside the home, with few opportunities for socialization and recreation. At disability camps, campers get to participate in swimming, nature studies, arts and crafts, canoeing, fishing, socialization events, sports, and games. Along with these activities, many camps also offer a horse riding program or other specialized activities.
According to the Therapeutic Recreation Journal2, disability camps offer unique opportunities for campers to learn and improve skills they otherwise might not have a chance to develop in a safe and supportive setting.
Campground staff is made up of well trained and dedicated volunteers who understand the disabilities and special needs of each camper and how they work with others. Staff are ready to help campers try the activities of their choice, provide any supports they may need, and care for any medical supports necessary.
How They Help
Disability camps promote personal growth and foster independence. Campers are encouraged to try new things, while spending time apart from their parents and regular caregivers. This allows them to gain self-confidence, learn cooperation and communication, and increase personal independence. All activities take place in a safe and fun environment, which allows family members to truly relax knowing their loved one is in good hands.
According to the Adapted Physical Activity Quarterly3, outcomes of disability camps include mutual self-help stemming from the sharing of fears, anger, frustration, loneliness, and guilt, helping them to realize they are not alone. This allows campers to share life experiences in the comfort of an environment where disability is the norm, rather than the exception.
Camps have been proven to offer development of independent living, communication, and social interaction skills, along with improving health-related quality of life, according to the Therapeutic Recreation Journal2.
If you’re looking for ways to help your child experience life and build upon their skills, consider a disability camp. Not only do these camps provide a safe and fun environment for learning, they also provide memories which will last a lifetime.
1Ashton-Shaeffer, C., Gibson, H.J., Autry, C.E., & Hanson, C.S. (2001). Meaning of sport to adults with physical disabilities: a disability sport camp experience. Sociology of Sport Journal, 18, 95-114.
2Devine, M.A., Piatt, J., & Dawson, S.L. (2015). The role of a disability-specific camp in promoting social acceptance and quality of life for youth with hearing impairments. Therapeutic Recreation Journal, 49 (4), 293-309.
3Goodwin, D.L., & Staples, K. (2005). The meaning of summer camp experiences to youths with disabilities. Adapted Physical Activity Quarterly, 22, 160-178.