I LOVE camp. I am in my happy place when I’m at just about any camp. I attended camp myself for 9 years and I currently sit on the board of Camp Living Wonders, a camp for children with autism. I have had the opportunity to interview many parents and children attending camp. I also volunteer at Camp Twin Lakes a camp that houses over 60 different non-profit special needs camps. This past weekend I was a “luggage volunteer.” It was hot, hard work and extremely rewarding. I was impressed with the parents, the staff of the two camps using Camp Twin Lakes (Camp Journey for children with autism and Camp ESP for children with special needs). This summer I have also sent two boys off to camp and my older son works at Camp Kaylie for kids with autism as well. As a mom, I know how much time it can take to select a camp, pay for camp and send your child off to camp. I thought I’d share some great preparation tips. If you are not sending a child to camp this summer, maybe this blog will get you thinking about next summer. Many camps will let you visit to check them out for future summer plans.
1) Speak in detail to the camp before you select the camp and before your child goes. Let them know about any particular issues with your child. The more they know…the better. Don’t hold back.
2) Make sure the camp is clearly aware of any “danger” zones for your child or things that “set your child off” as well as your goals.
3) If you cannot afford camp, do not give up. Speak to the camp about scholarships or ways to help volunteer time and raise money.
4) Ask you child about some goals they’d like to accomplish at camp and share those with the counselor and camp directors.
5) Keep in mind, that being away from you, can be a great experience, so talk camp up with your kids and help them get excited. Keep your fears to yourself.
6) Pack LIGHT. Your kids WILL survive with very little and they will be happier with less to manage (as will be their counselors). Pack items into zip lock bags and label them (socks, underwear, etc.). Do not expect the bags to come home but they make unpacking quick and easy. Don’t send anything you want back or anything valuable. Double bag shampoo and any liquids. Provide a small bucket for shower and bathroom items. Send along self-addressed and stamped post cards and a pen. Provide a pencil case for writing or rest time items (card games, jacks, dot to dot, etc.).
7) Do not send electronics to camp. I repeat. Do not send electronics. Unless your child is non-verbal, electronics will impeded their ability to make friends. If your child is electronically addicted, wean them off a month prior to camp.
8) Last, enjoy the time while your kids are at camp! You can purge their rooms, take back your house and even maybe go on a little vacation of your own!
(photo from Camp Twin Lakes)