Special needs and summer camp

How camps address physical challenges, medical conditions, developmental, behavioural or learning disabilities

Many Canadian camps offer programs to children with special needs, (click here for a list), including physical challenges, medical conditions, developmental, behavioural or learning disabilities Whatever their mandate, and whether the camp provides shadows or support staff or requires parents to send someone familiar and experienced in working with their child, these camps have facilities that are adapted for children with special needs, and medical/camp staff who are trained to work with these campers. Read more

Some camps integrate children with special needs into their general program; others are entirely devoted to children with specific needs. For example, there are ASD camps with week-long specialized programming for kids on the autism spectrum, while some general camps offer support for these kids and teens. Any of these camps, though, aim to challenge the kids and offer them a rewarding time at camp. To ensure the best fit for your child, ask about:

  • Medical and professional staff, their experience and expertise
  • Storage and administration of medication
  • Availability of special foods for campers on restricted diets
  • Adaptations or supports offered at the camp to accommodate your child
  • Counsellor-to-camper ratios in the case of children with special needs
  • How your child would be integrated or supported in the camp program, or how the program is designed to suit your child

If you’re interested, read our expert tips for raising a special needs child. You can also check out our valuable resources for families with a special needs child


Most camps take food allergies very seriously and put a lot of effort into prevention. (It's still worth asking about camp policies; and make sure you inform the camp of any allergies before hand). Camp management and staff work hard to ensure that if some campers have food allergies—the most common being peanuts—food containing the allergen doesn’t make its way onto camp grounds.

Staff are trained to be vigilant about potentially harmful foods, know that they can be dangerous to a camper’s health, and to take them if they see them and bring them to dispose of per camp policy.

Chefs and kitchen staff are trained to read every label on every ingredient they buy, in order to keep the dangerous allergens off camp property.

While staff is diligent on the prevention side, training to administer an epi-pen injection in case of an anaphylactic reaction is an important part of the overall safety strategy. Some camps will also prevent those with anaphylaxis from participating in certain canoe trips. Because of the potential for an allergic reaction to occur, coupled with being in the remote wilderness, camps may decide it is too much of a safety risk to send the child.

Camps are also good at accommodating for non-life threatening food issues like Celiac’s Disease, gluten and lactose intolerances. Kitchen staff will prepare foods that will provide nutritional value and help prevent flare-ups from food allergies.                                               

Above All

Be upfront and provide complete, accurate and up-to-date information about your child's needs and medical requirements. You want to ensure the camp can adequately accommodate him or her.

If your child has special needs, start your camp search here
Special needs camps - specialty camps for kids and teens with special needs

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