Are you thinking of sending your child with an autism spectrum disorder to summer camp but not sure how the camp will handle your child’s specific needs or which questions to ask? Jim McHardy offers five questions you should consider asking the camp director upfront.
As the director of a special needs summer camp program, this is a question parents often ask me. Every child is different and has different needs, interests and a different life history. The answer is never yes or no, but a request for background and information on the son or daughter to be able to assess if the camp environment being offered is able to meet their needs.
What we do know is that each summer thousands of children experience the outdoors and participate in peer groups through the structure of organized residential and day camps. The potential for positive social interaction and growth through a camp experience has been measured and demonstrated through a large body of research. Even children with complex, neurological disorders can benefit from camp, provided the appropriate programs, staffing and supports are in place. So I believe all parents should consider a summer camp experience for their ASD child.
Top 5 Questions For Parents of an ASD Child to Ask the Camp Director
- What ASD training is provided to the care staff? Beyond background on autism, training should include information on communication, behavior management, developmentally appropriate instructional strategies and social skills.
- What behavioral interventions are utilized by the camp counsellors and what previous experience will they have had with ASD children?
- What are the physical facilities that the child will be using and/or stating in and are they able to meet the personal care needs of the child?
- What accommodations are able to be made to the specific needs, routines and behaviours of the child?
- What is the information gathering and staff preparation process regarding the specific needs, interests and abilities of the child?
There is an expanding support knowledge base and increased program opportunities for ASD children to attend both integrated and non-integrated camps across Ontario as the need for camp experiences for ASD children begins to be addressed.
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Would you send your child with ASD to summer camp? Why or why not? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below.