Preparing for Summer Camp
It is that time of year again…Summer Camp can not only be a wonderful experience for your camper, but it also can provide much needed respite for Caregivers. I have found for many parents it is also a time of great concern. The most often heard comment by families is that they are unsure how their loved one will do away from home.
There are a number of things that can be done to decrease the anxiety of both the campers and the caregivers.
1. Make sure all medical devices and medications go with campers in a manner approved by the camp. Be sure to pack incontinence products if needed—a little above the number you expect to be used.
2. Provide stamped, addressed envelopes and paper for letter writing or drawing. Pencils and crayons are also good to include. Make sure to include a number of different address information so they can send notes to whomever your camper should choose. (Personally I include a sheet of labels with address for home, grandparents, friends, etc.)
3. Include a beloved stuffed animal, favorite pillow, blanket, book, etc.
4. If allowed, send free time activities…reading books, activity books, outdoor things like a Frisbee. Let your camper's functioning level and interests be your guide. Also remember the limited space to keep camper items and specific exclusions the camp may have.
Although this can be scary; remember that inclusive camps can provide wonderful opportunities for social growth and increasing levels of independence. The first time I sent my daughter to camp we were actually able to send her own Support Staff with her, so don’t think for a minute that I have not had my own anxiety regarding camp. After her first time, I received the camp report about her experience and they indicated she would do fine without her Support Staff. She took to camp staff well and has gone alone ever since.
Personally, my favorite camp is True Friends. This camp is the one I have found to have the most services to offer people 5 and over--yes, they have camp for adults also! They are solely for disabled campers. This can be a great experience for your loved one to be surrounded by peers experiencing challenges similar to their own. True Friends also offers different staffing ratios and a host of assistance for those with high medical needs. My daughter, for example, uses the 1:1 staffing ratio due to her needs.
Some camps also offer family camp experiences. This may be a good way for you to check out a camp and make an introduction to the camp experience for your family member.