Sliding into Summer Camp Season

But, I just poured my coffee.  

You know that feeling when you pour that first cup of hot coffee in the morning? The mug warming your hands while you breathe in the rich aroma and gently ease into your day.

No, you don’t remember that? That’s probably because you’re a parent. You may relate more to gulping room temperature liquid caffeine. But sitting with a hot coffee is a special moment. That means things are calm (or calm enough).

 This is how I feel about summer camp season, like I just sat down with my hot coffee.

In my house, we have JUST settled into the school year. We had initial transitions, holiday transitions, and break transitions. We called school meetings. We came up with plans. The plans didn’t work. We revamped the plans. The new plan worked! It’s now May and we are finding our groove. I’m catching my breath and sipping my hot coffee.  

Then I get an email from a friend outlining her extensive plans for summer camps for the kids.


“I’m too late! Everyone else is signed up. The slots will be filled!”

You’re not too late. Certainly there are camps with highly sought after spots and those camps are likely to fill up on the day registration opens. But for the majority of summer camps, enrollment remains open.

The right fit

“It’s May and we just found our groove! How are we going to transition to a new camp, with new kids, new rules, new activities and expect success? What if they don’t ‘get’ my child?” 

For any child, finding the right fit is important. For a parent of a child with special needs, this can weigh heavily. My son’s diagnosis and challenges are not always visible and I often grapple with the question: How much do I reveal? On one hand, if I describe my child with a diagnosis and a list of his challenges, will that impact the way in which he is viewed and possibly his eligibility for a given program? [note: refer to The American Camp Association website to read about how the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) supports all individuals with a disability to have access to statewide and local programming.]

On the other hand, if I am not fully upfront with the program coordinators and staff, how can I expect them to best serve him? When I asked Emily Glossop (Recreation Therapist at the Ottawa Children’s Treatment Centre in Ontario, Canada) for her advice, she emphasized the importance of honesty and openness. Parents and program coordinators are part of a team with a shared goal and this is grounded in shared expectations for the child and family.

Now what?

“Time and money considerations are key. Camps can be expensive. What is realistic for our family? Similarly, what is necessary for our family in terms of child care coverage? What is out there? Where do I start?”

 Ask around. I’ve found that people are often willing to help if given the opportunity. If your child enjoys a particular program, class, or therapist, ask him or her. Summer camps take many forms and you never know what you will unearth. If you’re in Massachusetts, view options near you on the Exceptional Lives Resource Directory (check Social & Recreational Activities > Summer Camps and Programs). You can also check out this Summer Camp Resources document from INDEX to help guide your search!

 Summer camp is a wonderful opportunity to incorporate therapeutic or academic goals into summer days of play and adventure. Summer camp provides an opportunity to try something new and expand interests. Or summer camp may create the time to focus or engage deeper in something that brings your child joy. Do the research and ask around, but ultimately, sign up for the camp (or camps!) that makes sense for your child and your family. Have fun exploring! And remember to take the time to finish your coffee.