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Regardless of Special Needs, Camp is for Every Child

Finding the Right Camp is Easier Than You Think

April 01, 2010
As a parent, I constantly ask where do children have their mental, personal, emotional, and physical needs nurtured? Where will they learn to get along with others, to take safe risks, to deal with conflict in a constructive way that encourages them to be creative, to explore and discover, to learn by actively doing, to try—to fail and try again? In the Camp community, I find what I intuitively know as a parent—to be a positive, productive adult one needs the opportunity to truly experience childhood —that is how one grows.

Camps enjoy the opportunity of working their magic with all of our children: the gifted athlete, the budding musician, the curious naturalist, the first-time camper and the child with Special Needs. The idea that camp is for every child isn't just a pipe dream — it's a reality. And one that parents and children celebrate and one that the American Camp Association® (ACA) supports by promoting safe, fun, and developmentally-appropriate experiences in the camp setting.

A Camp Resource for Families
ACA's family-dedicated Web site, provides expert advice from camp professionals on camp selection, readiness, and child and youth development—as well as a searchable database of over 2,400 ACA-accredited camps.
Over 11 million children and adults will participate in camp this summer, 14 percent of whom have special or different needs. Overall, the numbers continue to grow, and this popular movement testifies so loudly to the extraordinary benefits that camp provides to our young people — responsibility, exploration, engagement, not to mention the spiritual dimension of the camp experience.

Camp is about firsts — a first campfire outdoors, leading a pony, catching a frog, enjoying the evening stories, and being chosen — chosen to be part of a community that values each child and his or her special and unique gifts. Camps provide children the opportunity to take healthy risks while in a safe and nurturing environment. Regardless of different levels of physical and mental ability of needs, all children get the opportunity to get outside, play, and most importantly, to just be kids!

Every child has different needs and there is a camp to meet every unique need. At inclusive camps, children have the opportunity to discover similarities in someone different from them, things that they may not have imagined, something which leads them gain a new perspective about others, as well as themselves. Likewise, camps that exclusively serve children with special needs allow these campers to discover that there are other children just like them. Not only himself— but others — could have special medical needs and still enjoy the carefree summer activities of children without their particular special needs. Camp allows these children the opportunity to view themselves as children, first.

The independence the kids gain and the sheer happiness they get from participating in the activities stays with them even after they leave camp. For a person with special needs, something as simple as paddling a canoe or riding a horse can be a life-changing experience. Providing this experience for children is what makes the camp experience unique, and the ACA family feels fortunate and honored to help children discover these special moments of life.

©2010 American Camp Association

With nearly three decades of experience working with children, youth, and families, Peg L. Smith is the chief executive officer of the American Camp Association® (ACA). With up to 300 health, safety, and programming standards, ACA is the only national association that accredits camps and promotes a safe and fun camp experience with developmental benefits backed by independent research. To learn more about ACA, please visit www.CampParents.org or www.ACAcamps.org.


A Camp Resource for Families


CampParents.org, ACA's family-dedicated Web site, provides expert advice from camp professionals on camp selection, readiness, and child and youth development—as well as a searchable database of over 2,400 ACA-accredited camps.

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Tags: Camp, Special Needs

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