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Choosing the right specialty camp

What to research before enrolling your child in camp

Choosing the right specialty camp

While camps designed for specific needs offer very specialized care, some families would prefer to attend a traditional camp that caters to all children.

Before enrolling your children in a camp, visit the facility and make sure the layout and surroundings meet your expectations and needs.

Here are a few things parents should keep in mind before choosing a traditional or special needs camp for their child:

• Is the camp is accredited by an organization such as the American Camp Association?

• Does it meet the organization's standards for kids with special needs, including facility and staffing requirements?

• What training and experience do the directors and counselors have in working with kids with a need similar to your child's?

• Are there other families you can contact whose children have attended the camp that might be willing to discuss their experience with you?

• What is the ratio of counselors to campers? For children with severe disabilities, the ratio should be at least one counselor for every three campers.

• What are the camp's health and safety procedures? What about the facility? Is there a registered nurse in residence? If not, who will disperse medication, if needed? How close is the nearest hospital? Have emergency arrangements been made with a local hospital?

Are they able to accommodate special dietary needs? Who will assist with feeding, toileting or other activities of daily living?

• Can I visit the camp to see the program firsthand? Do they have sessions year-round?

• How do they ensure an inclusive environment when some activities aren’t appropriate for your child? What alternatives are available?

• What about the camp's registration fee? (Keep in mind that expense and quality may not go hand-in-hand, because many specialized camps charge only a fraction of actual costs. Find out if there are scholarships available.)