For many parents, sending their child off to summer camp for the first time is a roller coaster experience. Over the winter months, there is a good chance you will wade through mountains of camp brochures trying to pick the “right” camp, perhaps even visit the camp in the spring for an open house. Next there is the prepping and packing of an all-weather-forecast wardrobe and gear into one or two suitcases. Then there is the long drive to camp, excitement, anticipation and goodbye. The long drive back home is spent asking questions like: Did I do the “right” thing? Did I send my child to the right camp? Will she be safe? Will she learn, make friends and, most importantly, have fun?
For parents of children with disabilities, the camp experience is all the more intense when the child’s disability-related needs are factored in. Even more questions arise like: Is the camp accessible? Will she be included in all activities? Do they have adaptive equipment? Will the staff be able to meet her specific needs? How will she receive her medication? What if she has problems at night? The answers to many of these questions will determine whether the child’s camp experience is a positive one.
This resource guide was originally designed as a booklet for parents of children with disabilities and/or chronic illnesses selecting a camp for their child for the first time. Throughout the summer of 2002, Bradford Woods camp staff interviewed both parents of children with disabilities sending their child to camp for the first time and parents of children with disabilities returning to camp for a second, third, fourth or even tenth season. Much of the information presented in this guide is based on interviews with parents and the camp staff experiences of planning camp programs for children with and without disabilities, working with parents sending their child to camp for the first time, answering their questions, addressing their concerns and calming their fears. This guide is also written based upon the cumulative experiences of staff from Bradford Woods and the National Center on Accessibility. The Discover Camp web site and booklet are collaborative projects of the National Center on Accessibility, Bradford Woods and the National Center on Physical Activity and Disability. Funding has been provided by the centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It is our hope that with the information presented herein, you and your child “Discover Camp” and all of the benefits that camp has to offer.