By Dina B. Cohen
Life Insurance on a Child with Special Needs: Benefits and Challenges
When it comes to summer camp for children with disabilities, there are both opportunities and challenges. Especially for “first timers,” the idea of being away from home in a new environment can be daunting. The goal is to locate a camp that will provide an enjoyable experience for your child at the same time that it builds confidence, independence, self-esteem, and social skills.
It’s important to identify what your child both needs and enjoys—and asking your child is an important step in the process. Is he more interested, for instance, in arts and crafts or sports? Would your child enjoy a lakefront or forest setting more? You and other caregivers should assess how much structure, supervision, and routine are optimal for this period during which your child will be away from school and how prepared your child is to handle various lengths of time in new surroundings. Age and personality should also be considered as you make choices.
Options vary widely—from residential to day camps, from the academic-oriented to the completely recreational or a combination of the two. Learn about the time allotted to education vs. pure fun and determine what mix would be best for your child. Camps also range from week- to summer-long and differ significantly in the number of children served per session—from 10 to 400.
Do you want your child to be in an inclusive setting, catering to children of all abilities, one which focuses on children with disabilities similar to your child’s, or one that serves children having a variety of disabilities? It’s important that you be completely candid with camp personnel concerning your child’s specific requirements.
Once you have a list of your needs, it’s time to go shopping. Beware of camps that are not responsive to your phone calls and questions. Not having adequate time for you now speaks volumes concerning the likelihood of their giving your child the daily attention he deserves. Be prepared to ask for references and to talk to parents who have already had experience with the camps you are considering.
Learn as much as possible concerning medical facilities, as well as arrangements for meals (including menu details), sleeping, and bathing. You want your child to be both safe and comfortable in this new setting.
The American Camping Association recommends one counselor to three or four children with learning disabilities, and you should ask about the staff’s ages, education, and medical training. If you’re considering an overnight camp, find out about staff supervision during evening hours.
What is the camp’s philosophy concerning communication between child and family? How is discipline handled? You’ll want to hear from your child firsthand how things are going and to learn quickly if there are issues that need to be addressed.
If thoughtfully approached, your child’s summer camp experience can be a pleasurable and constructive complement to school year activities. For more information, see “Camps for Children with Special Needs” by the National Dissemination Center for Children with Special Needs (NICHCY).