Summer is approaching and for many families, it is time to begin thinking of summer activities to keep their child’s mind and body active. Summer camps can be a great opportunity to open the door to many new experiences for your child. Social, emotional, and physical growth can all be fantastic benefits your child can take away from the summer camp experience.
Many parents and children may feel anxious about summer camps; may it be overnight or day camps. Autism Behavior Services, Inc. encourages families to work through these feelings by following the 5 steps to sending your child to summer camp like a champ.
- Research. Take your time with educating yourself about the summer camps in your area. Be practical in deciding if your child is ready for an overnight camp or day camp. Talk with your child about what they would like to do at a summer camp. Discuss ideas about what you think they would like to experience at a summer camp or opportunities that you would like them to have. Look for camps that will fit your child’s needs, matches your child’s likes, and meets your standards.
- Meeting your child’s needs. Once you have created a list of possible candidates, consider any limitations or needs that your child may have. Does your child have a special diet, physical or social limitations, medical, or any other special needs? Contact the camps through phone or email and discuss the specifics of your child’s needs. Ask if they are familiar with working with children of this special need and if they are able to accommodate your child. Make sure to provide the camp you chose with clear, written directions and information pertaining to your child’s needs, so that it may be used as a reference by the camp.
- Prepare. Familiarize your child with the camp. Show them pictures of the camp location or, if possible, take them to tour the camp. Eliminate any surprises; the more your child feels informed, the less stress and anxiety they will feel about going to the camp. Talk with your child about the schedule the camp follows and what is expected of them, such as participation requirements or options. Discuss whom they can go to for help or if they have any concerns and how they can tell who is a camp counselor (i.e. certain colored shirts, name tags). If your child is participating in an overnight camp, chat about appropriate times to contact home. Let them know how often and through which method you will be able to communicate with them, such as emails, phone calls, or letters. Talk about the possible feelings of homesickness and strategies they can use to cope.
- Pack Well. Most camps, especially overnight ones, will provide you a list of items your child will need to bring with them. If one is not provided, ask the camp to suggest what the child should bring. Label your child’s property with their name including luggage, backpacks, clothing, and any medicine or special foods. Allow your child to pack items that can provide them comfort; for example, a favorite blanket, stuffed animal, or pictures of family. Another great way to help a child to cope with homesick feelings is to put pre-written letters inside their bag that they can read whenever they are missing home.
- Emphasize having fun. Get your child excited about going to summer camp. Speak about all the positive experiences your child will have. Talk about the activities your child will participate in and how fun they will be. Show your child videos of kids participating in similar activities to help create a picture of what the child can expect.
Sending your child to summer camp is a milestone for both parents and the child. Although there may be some initial feelings of stress and worry, keeping the family well informed and prepared can make all the difference. Make summer an exciting, enjoyable, and memorable season. Wishing everyone lots of fun in the sun!
Author: Breanna Flanigan works with children at Autism Behavior Services Inc. She specializes in applied behavior analysis (ABA). She enjoys being involved in children’s learning and helping them to achieve their highest potential.