Summer camp is a great opportunity to learn and have fun. Preparing your child with special needs for camp may take a little extra work, but it is worth the preparation. Here are some tips for making camp a positive experience for everyone.
Create a social story to practice new routines and introduce new people. Overnight or day camps have a different structure than school or home, and your child may benefit from learning about these changes. Consider including pictures of the actual location and staff so that your child knows exactly where to go for common needs like the bathroom or play areas.
Do a trial run. Ask your camp coordinator if you can visit camp before the start date to allow your child to feel comfortable with the location. For overnight camps, have your child practice being away from home with a trial run with grandma or a family friend for a weekend. This can help identify additional needs, such as comfort items, and help determine if your child is ready for overnight camp.
Let your child help pack. Packing can be a great opportunity to discuss the activities during camp and expectations for behavior. Packing deodorant can start a discussion on hygiene at camp just like packing a swimsuit allows your child to talk about swimming. Remember, label everything!
Provide information about reinforcers and preferred activities. Send your child with small reinforcers or preferred activities. Camp staff will be able to utilize these items to motivate your child to participate and try new activities.
Enjoy your respite! Being a parent is a hard job, and you deserve a break! Use this time to indulge in self-care. Unsure what to do with your time? Ask to meet with other parents from camp for support and networking; camp is a great way to build relationships for both you and your child.