As I walk outside and see that sunshine, I realize that summer is right around the corner. I really encourage parents of children with special needs to begin planning early on to ensure that you find the appropriate program for your child. As this is something I have been doing for the past 15 years, I have a few suggestions you might want to consider:
• What do you want your child to accomplish this summer? What skills and lessons would you like to be reinforced?
• Are you interested in a continuation of his/her educational program? If you are responding yes to this question, you would want to first consider if your child is eligible for Extended School Year (ESY). Based upon your child’s IEP, he/she may be eligible for a part-time or full-time program throughout the summer.
• Are you interested in a summer program that addresses social skills training? If you reside in Pennsylvania, you could be eligible for Summer Therapeutic Activities Program
. Intervention focuses on the development of social skills within peer groups. Participants have fun as they learn to cope with challenges, manage emotions and make good decisions. Check out our website if you would like further information on this program, which is offered in Erie, Warren, and Meadville, Pa.
• Are you interested in a recreational program? Some camps are designed for children with special needs and are usually highly skilled in dealing with children with behavioral challenges. Other camps include children with special needs interacting with their typical peers. If you’re in Erie County, we hold the recreation program “Camp Shamrock” for children with autism and other disabilities.
• Day camp or overnight camp? There are overnight camps that offer stays by the week, month, or all summer. Some overnight camps are specifically designed for children on the autism spectrum.
• Will you be in need of childcare before/after camp hours? Some camps do offer extended day coverage. • What does your child enjoy? Does he/she have a passion for music, computers, zoo animals, nature or sports? This could lead you in a specific direction.
• If possible, engage your child in this discussion. He/she may have specific ideas as to what summer should look like, and summer will be a win-win for you and your child.
The special needs of your child do not have to keep him/her from participating in a summer camp or program. Do some research – talk to schools and organizations in your area to find a program that fits your child’s needs. My next blog will discuss some specifics as you search for the “right” program for your child.