At the Y, we believe that all children deserve the opportunity to enjoy a traditional summer camp experience complete with swimming and making new friends, while also having opportunities to practice social and recreational skills. Therefore; Somerset County YMCA is proud support campers with special needs.
Ensuring a child with special needs thrives at camp can present its own challenges, but these tips can help parents and caretakers make this the best summer ever!
5 Tips to Ensure Kids with Special Needs Thrive at Camp
- Get ready to have tons of fun! – The first thing you need to know about camp is that it is all about having fun, making new friends and trying new things. Y Counselors are ready to help your camper figure out which things are fun for them and which things aren’t. Letting counselors know about the things that work at school is one way to help everyone have a great first couple of days while they are still getting to know each other.
- It’s ok to be nervous – There are going to be things at camp that your camper has never seen or done before, that is great! That is part of what makes camp so much fun. Campers might be scared or nervous before trying something new but the most important thing is to TRY. If they are feeling unsure, speak to your child’s counselor about watching some other kids go first or a counselor trying something new with them. Encouraging your camper to set up a signal with their counselor to show that they are nervous or scared can help everyone be more comfortable.
- There will be lots of kids – Camp is a great place to meet kids from other schools but that means there are going to be a lot of new kids. Some campers can find this especially challenging and overwhelming. If you know your camper struggles with noise or new faces and places, work with his/her counselor to find things that make these situations less overwhelming.
- This is not school – This is camp! Children who are used to a schedule can get a loose outline of the day from their counselor which can help with anxiety and task switching.
- Do a test run – We are so excited to welcome our first-time campers, but sometimes first-time campers are not as excited to see us. If your child has never been to the camp grounds, take a test drive a couple of days before camp starts, tour the facility and help your camper get acclimated to some of the spaces where they will be spending their days.
Y camp is a fun, enriching experience where all children are encouraged to discover the world around them. We recognize that every child is unique and what makes summer camp a success for one child isn’t the same as what makes it great for another. Across Summer Camp and the Y as a whole, everything we do emphasizes the Y’s core values of Honesty, Respect, Caring and Responsibility. Armed with these tips and open channels of communication with Y Camp Staff, we’re sure your child will thrive at Y Camp!
About the Author:
Stephanie Jasinski, LPC, serves as Director of Special Needs at Somerset Hills YMCA, a branch of Somerset County YMCA. Jasinski joins the Y with an MA in Counseling from Montclair State University and six years’ experience empowering adults with learning and developmental disabilities to lead fulfilling, independent lives.