We, as parents, are constantly striving to broaden our children’s daily lives and knowledge. Summer brings the perfect opportunity for this type of enriching adventure. My own personal memories would have been very dull without the summer camp experience . I know that my parents must have worried about leaving me in a strange environment to meet new friends and to try different and unfamiliar activities. However, for the parent of a special-needs child, the experience can be as daunting as travelling to a foreign country. There are many things that parents need to consider when deciding on a camp for their child. First, there is a choice to be made about the type of camp. Should it be an overnight or a day camp? Maybe a special needs camp or a mainstream camp? There are advantages and disadvantages to each. With a special needs camp, a parent can feel more secure knowing that the child will have like minded peers that can support them and understand exactly what they might be experiencing. Further, the camp can usually accommodate these campers more easily. For example, if your child has a life threatening illness or needs frequent medical care, these camps will have the most appropriately trained staff available. Equipment is usually modified and accessible, and has been designed with the utmost safety in mind. Finally, although some of these programs are therapeutic in nature, they allow children the freedom to be kids and discover the joy of the camping journey. Other parents may choose to mainstream their child. This option allows the special needs child to showcase talents or gifts, such as horsemanship, that portray them in a different light to a non-disabled peer. For children that have difficulty with social interaction, the mainstream experience will allow them the opportunity to experience turn-taking and social cues both first hand and naturally. A possible disadvantage for this type of camping adventure is that the other campers may not be as understanding when the pace of activities is slowed, or a disabled teammate is not able to participate at the same level. When making the choice, be sure to visit with your doctor or therapist. They will have intimate knowledge of your child’s health needs, therapy goals, personality, and strengths and challenges. Once a program is selected, view videos or do a computer search with your child to familiarize him or her with the camp. Take a tour of the facility if possible. Speak openly with the camp staff, directors, and others who will be working with your child. Familiarize the staff with your child’s disability. It is important to discern whether they feel that the camp will be a good fit for your child. Coordinate a treatment plan with outside therapists if applicable. Determine travel arrangements. Speak with airlines, if necessary, regarding any required accommodations. Finally, create a to do and packing list, leaving yourself plenty of time to accomplish and check off everything. I had a friend recently share an experience with me. Her sister had planned to send her son to camp and had packed everything that she thought he would need. She also packed…herself! Yes, she stayed in a hotel near the camp in case her son needed her. They did not call, because she had prepared them so well in advance of his arrival. With a little planning and foresight, your child, too can have an awesome time. Bon Voyage!. Adina Rich is the director of Rich Educational Consulting, LLC. Rich Educational Consulting assists parents with evaluating their child’s needs, planning an appropriate academic program, and finding and accessing community resources. They also offer in-services, workshops, and classes to parents, teachers, and, of course, kids!! Visit www.richeducationalconsulting.com or call 972-816-3100 for more information.