Stéphane Richard, manager of camps and youth programs for the Canadian Diabetes Association, says kids with special needs have even more to gain from a camp setting. “Certainly for kids with special needs we see a growth in their independence at camp, which is a great place to educate and help kids, in a challenge by choice environment, to push their own personal boundaries.”
Even more compelling is the tremendous support network for both kids and families dealing with specific conditions or diseases. “Camp might be the first place that a lot of these kids have met someone else that is in the exact or similar situation that they are living in,” says Richard. “This also gives parents and caregivers the opportunity to connect with other families and hopefully continue these relationships after camp.”
Deciding whether your child will thrive most in a traditional camp with specially trained support staff or in a specialized camp that has tailor-made facilities and programming to accommodate special needs is a personal decision. And while resources may be limited or varied, depending on which part of the country you reside in, there are camp programs that cater to kids dealing with medical conditions, behavioural disorders and learning disabilities, as well as mental and physical issues.
Of course if being anxious about sending your child to camp is a given for any parent, it can be even more daunting for a caregiver of a child with special needs, says Richard. Once you’ve determined that the medical and support staff in place will work for your child, he encourages parents to relax, get out and do something unique that they might not otherwise have had the opportunity to do. “Camp is 100 percent about the kids, but it’s also great to give parents the break they deserve.”