Summer Camp for Kids with Special Needs

Going to summer camp can be the highlight of any kid’s summer. Camp is where kids learn many life skills that they will take into adulthood, including learning how to be independent, how to make friends, and how to embrace new experiences.

When your child has special needs, the idea of camp also comes with a few extra questions and concerns. Will the camp staff understand your child’s unique needs? Will your child get along with the other kids? Will your child be able to participate fully? Fortunately, there are many different camp options for kids with special needs. With a little research, you’ll be sure to find one that’s a great fit for your child.

Searching for a Camp

When beginning your camp search, it helps to make a list of what you’re looking for in a camp. These things could include cost, location, whether it’s a day camp or an overnight camp, and other considerations, such as specialized training of the staff.

Another thing to consider is whether you’re looking for an inclusionary (mainstream) camp, or a camp where the campers all have special needs themselves. According to, inclusionary camps include kids with special needs in their groups of children with regular needs. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires all camps to make reasonable accommodations so that kids with special needs can attend.

Special-needs camps are designed especially for kids with disabilities, including kids who have learning or behavioral problems, chronic illnesses, and kids with mental or physical impairments.

If possible, involve your child in the camp search. That way, they feel like they have a say in their summer camp experience. Asking your child about what they want to get out of camp, including any activities they might want to try, can help you narrow down your search.

Doing Your Research

Whatever type of camp you’re interested in, it’s important to do your research. The American Camping Association ( is a reputable organization for all-things camp, and has online resources and lists of special-needs camps all around the country, as well as a plethora of general advice for campers and their parents.

Once you’ve narrowed down your camp choices, it helps to speak or email with a camp director to answer any questions you might have that can’t be answered from perusing the camp’s website. These questions could include:
-What is the camp’s philosophy?
-What does a typical camp day look like?
-How long is the camp day?
-What is the average age of the counselors?
-Do counselors and staff have training to work with kids with special needs?
-What type of certifications do the counselors have?
-Do most campers and staff come back each year?
-Can the camp provide appropriate meals if your child has a special diet?
-How do counselors and staff handle behavioral problems?

The best way to get a feel for a camp is to visit it in person, if possible. Even better: Visit it as a family. That way, you can get a true sense of the camp, meet some of the people who will be working with your child, and get a feel for the physical area.

With some research and planning, your future camper will have an unforgettable summer!

Nicole Sipe
Nicole Sipe
Nicole Sipe is the editor of Indy's Child and Southwest Ohio Parent magazines. She has a BA in Journalism from California State University Northridge, and has been involved in the print and digital publishing world for most of her life. Born and raised in Southern California, Nicole traded the city and sun for corn and creeks, and now lives in central Indiana with her husband, two sons and Collie. Her latest book for children, “All About Me! Art Journal” was published in 2022 by Walter Foster Jr. In her spare time, she likes traveling with her family, enjoying good food and drink, volunteering at her children’s schools and around her community, and practicing yoga.

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