The right summer camp can help your child learn new skills, try new activities, gain confidence, and make friends! But sometimes, convincing our loved ones with autism to try a camp can be tough. Here are some ideas to get ready for camp and help you and your child have a successful experience.
Choose a camp
If your child does not have much experience being away from home, consider starting with a day camp or a sports team for children with special needs. For example, ASNC’s Camp Royall near Pittsboro offers summer day camp and other programs throughout the year.
Consider sending your child to camp with someone he or she knows, such as a friend or sibling, to increase comfort.
Be sure that the camp staff has sufficient training to work with your loved one. Don’t be afraid to ask questions before you sign up. Here are some you might consider:
- What is the camper-to-counselor ratio?
- How many campers will be participating?
- What is the specific schedule of the week?
- What is the routine of each day?
- What adaptations could be made if needed? Examples might include more breaks if needed or a special snack time to accommodate your child’s diet.
Even camps that aren’t identified as being for individuals with special needs may be a good fit for some individuals with autism if they are directed at children with a defined interest such as robotics, science, or LEGOs.
Talk to a local ASNC Autism Resource Specialist if you need more information about options in your area.
Prepare your child and the staff
Ask the camp staff whether you can visit ahead of time, explore the facilities, and meet the staff. It might be good to choose a quiet time when other children are not there.
If you are considering an overnight camp and your child hasn’t slept away from home, arrange for an overnight or weekend somewhere the child is comfortable, or at the camp if possible. For example, Camp Royall has weekend camps year round to help campers ease into the experience.
Use social stories and visuals to explain to your child the types of activities and any new situations they might encounter at camp. Camp Royall provides a story specific to our camp on its website – if your camp doesn’t have one, you can do your own based on this example.
Speak positively about the camp and all of the fun your loved one will have. Attitude makes a difference!
Share information about your child with the camp staff in advance. Include interests and strengths, possible triggers and challenges, sensory issues, and behavior and communication strategies that work.
Pack for camp
Ask whether your camp has packing suggestions, like this list from Camp Royall. If not, be sure to consider all of the activities and pack accordingly. Wet and muddy clothes are no fun to put on, so send extras of everything.
If possible, include comfort or sensory items that will reduce your loved one’s stress.
On the other hand, don’t pack anything extremely valuable or irreplaceable.
Label everything with your child’s name!
If you haven’t checked out ASNC’s programs, please do – we would love to serve your family. No matter where you choose for your loved one, we hope your camper has the best summer ever!
Tags: ASNC, autism, autism camp, autism resources, autism society north carolina, autism society of NC, Autism Society of North Carolina, Autism spectrum, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Autism Spectrum Disorders, autism summer, autism support, Camp Royall, Social Recreation