Summer Programs for Children With Special Needs

Special Needs Summer Programs

How would your child like to spend his or her summer? Most would enjoy going to camp, no matter age or ability. In fact, there are a wide variety of summer camps and programs designed specifically for special needs individuals–something for everyone from Down’s syndrome and autism to limb loss and cardiac patient. Whether the program you choose focuses on medical recuperation, sports and outdoor events, or learning assistance and tutoring, there are certain things to consider:

  1. What is the result or goal of the program? Your child may be learning a new skill, gaining self-reliance in an unfamiliar area, connecting with others, building physical strength, or sharpening academically.
  2. Which option takes into account your special needs child’s interests, age, and temperament?
  3. What are the program’s structure and offerings? Some are indoors with a focus on academics like reading and language skills or even  art, music, performance, and acting. Technology, life skills, and internship training for the future are also practical options. Some programs emphasize outdoor physical activities like nature and exploration, field sports, and animals and zoology.  The camp may be social or individual, large or small, day or overnight, mixed groups or boys and girls separate, or competition versus recreation.
  4. Is the program accredited by the American Camp Association?
  5.  Is the camp able to make your child feel at home away from home? It should include sufficient equipment and personnel for treating injuries and other medical concerns. It should also have established policies on reimbursement in case of early departure or in-completion of the program. Ask about staff training requirements and the ratio of kids to counselors. Are the program’s arrangements accommodating to your child’s eating (including special dietary needs), sleeping, and daily hygiene routines? Are all areas accessible for specific disabilities or mobility challenges? What communications are available to you and your child while he or she is at the facility?
  6. Is the cost inclusive, or will there be charges for additional activities? Some school districts may fund a portion of the costs.

In making a final choice, ask previously participating parents and kids if they’d recommend the site. Buddy up if a new situation is too tasking, and join with a friend. Check with your local school staff; many camps or programs aren’t just for special needs but are adaptive to include them. Some options to explore include nature preserves and parks, community centers, local churches, youth clubs, museums, art/music centers, community theaters, and libraries. Get to know the program staff, and let them know all the pertinent information about your child’s individual condition so that they can best care for him or her. Ask to tour the facility personally if you have any concerns.


Be the Best Sport looks forward to working with special needs youth during summer vacation. Tuesday nights will focus on younger kids with a variety of multi-sport activities, including tee-ball, basketball, football, soccer, and scooter/bicycling to build motor skills and coordination. To encourage socializing and teamwork, we will aim to integrate siblings with the parents’ permission. On weekend mornings, we will be running at the Mid Island Y JCC in Plainview. Come join the fun!

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