For many children, summer camp is the highlight of their vacation, when they can be themselves, see old friends, and have big adventures.  Children with autism and their parents may be fearful of failure in all three areas, and thus hesitate to sign up for camp.  However, if you choose a camp that understands autism and knows how to work with your child, camp can be a valuable and fun experience, complete with friends, independence and lasting happy memories.

 Finding the right summer camp for your child with autism begins with knowing what that camp must have.  Good choices may be autism-specific or a general camp with a well-informed and intentional plan to inclusion of all.  Autism summer camps truly understand autism, through research, training, and experience. They know how to help their campers feel comfortable in a new environment, and they meet their campers where they are developmentally.  A good camp for your child lives out its philosophy of accepting everyone as they are, and then encouraging growth from there.  A strong community is more important than competition or even mastery of activity skills.  You want a camp that both understands autism and helps all children feel important and accepted.

With the confidence that comes from acceptance, children are more willing to try new things, and also more quickly feel “at home”.  A huge benefit to choosing a camp specifically for children with autism is that they also can feel “normal” when in the midst of others with similar traits.  In these camps, almost everyone needs extra time to process information and respond (due to the common issue of slow processing speed).  Many campers will also struggle with fine and gross motor skills, and this is less of a problem when playing a game or doing crafts if everyone is in the same boat.

The best camps for children with autism train their staff in methods of assisting their campers.  Routines and schedules will be posted and reviewed with campers, at chore time counselors will break down tasks into simple steps.  They will encourage kids to problem-solve and do things for themselves, but be ready to coach.  They will be aware of potential sensory issues (e.g., a loud dining hall), and take steps to mitigate.  Counselors will pre-process activities, giving their campers time and information to make smoother transitions.  They will make sure there is plenty of downtime as well, for decompression.  When you are calling camps, listen for strategies like these when determining whether the camp will be a good fit for your child

When searching for an autism summer camp for your child, you must decide first what type of experience you are seeking.  Do you want a respite/vacation, where the emphasis is on fun and relaxation only, or a growth experience, in which they are encouraged to work toward goals, try new things and step out of their comfort zone at times?  Both are available, so think ahead about your goals.

As camps to describe their campers and their programs.  Do they seem to know your child?  Does it sound like an environment into which your child will fit and feel comfortable?  Do they talk about structure and accommodations that are appropriate for individuals with autism?  What is their philosophy?  What kinds of training do their staff receive, and who is giving it?  What is the background of the camp leadership?  They do not need PhDs to provide a fantastic, safe and appropriate camp for your child, but they should have experience working with children on the autism spectrum .

In your search, keep in mind that the right fit is more important than distance from home.  If you are able to travel, do not eliminate a camp just because it is several states away.  There are not a lot of camps who specialize in autism, and a good experience for your child may require travel.  If you are able, go visit the camp before you register, even if you can only meet a couple of the staff.  Ask for parent references.  Listen to your intuition (although try to keep your anxiety about this big step from overtaking the process).

Talisman Summer Camp has been serving young people with autism and similar needs for nearly 40 years.Our developmentally-focused programs are based on current best practices and our own years of experience with our campers.  We are committed to providing high-quality meaningful experiences and sending everyone home with happy memories and tools for success.  We welcome inquiries and visits as you work to find the right summer camp for your child with autism.

Author Bio :
Shawn is a passionate health blogger.  He served as a volunteer in a peace corps in Africa. Because of his passion toward writing and helping others, he started his career as a writer with Talisman summer camp where he now works as a content manager. He is a regular volunteer at the hospital for special children, When he is not working or volunteering at the children’s hospital, he likes to fishing with his father.