Sending Your Special Needs Child To Camp

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Kids LOVE Special Needs Camps!

When you have a child who has complex needs and special equipment, the last thing you might consider is sending them to camp.  Don’t overlook this awesome resource though.  It’s a great experience for kids, siblings, and parents.




Every Child Should Have The Chance To Make Camp Memories

Facebook memories can be a wonderful thing.  Several times this summer I saw memories of summer camp.  I have many fond memories of camp as a child, My grandparents were camp managers at a camp so visiting my grandparents during the summer also meant visiting camp. 

All wonderful memories from my childhood that I wasn’t sure my son with special needs would ever really have.  Then I heard about Camp Barnabas. 

Summer Camp Was A Dream Come True

I had never imagined that there would be a camp that would be able to cater to the specific needs of my son, so when I heard of this camp from a friend I started researching all I could find

It seemed too good to be true, not only a camp set up specifically for children with special needs, but also having a sibling camp at the same time.  Both of my boys would be able to have a camp experience and Mama got a week long break.  It was a respite that I truly needed at that time.   

Would They Take Care Of My Child The Way I Did?

The first thing to get over was actually letting go of my kid for a week.  Would anyone else be able to care for him the way I did?  The more I talked to other parents and researched, I realized that their set up was amazing and I felt comfortable signing my kids up. 

Camp Barnabas has different weeks specific to different disabilities such as physical disabilities, developmental delay, intellectual disabilities, autism, and blindness.   

As a mom, it wasn’t necessarily easy for me to leave my child with special needs under someone else’s care for a full week, but there were so many things that make me feel confident that he was getting amazing care and would have a great time. 

Helping Kids With Additional Needs

  • They offered a quiet welcome, that celebrated my son’s arrival while respecting his sensory issues, while other campers had the option to be greeted with a loud boisterous welcome. 
  • Each cabin had a nurse to take care of medicine and any other medical needs. 
  • Each camper with special needs had a one on one helper who studied my sons specific needs and asked great questions about the best ways to help my child have a positive experience.  
  • All the ‘typical’ camp activities were adapted so that all the campers had the opportunity to participate.  From ropes courses to canoeing, to the zero-entry pool and water slide that was three wide for students who needed a little help going down. 

 If you knew my son, you would know he is definitely mama’s boy and never wants to leave me.  He was nervous going to camp for a whole week without me.  He felt more comfortable knowing his big brother was also there, even though they hardly ever saw each other.


kids learn from special needs campers

Camp Barnabas Was a HUGE Success

By the time his week was over and I picked him up, the first thing he asked was if he could come back next year.  I signed him up right then before we even left the campgrounds.   

 He had so many favorite parts of camp he had trouble picking any one favorite.  He loved the themed parties each night, swimming in the huge pool and water slides were a huge hit. 

He made friends with so many of the helpers, especially the young ladies.  He is quite a flirt.  He came back from camp with confidence in himself and a better ability to be away from me.  

 Camps For Siblings of Special Needs Kids

The benefits for my older son were just as amazing.  He went to camp thinking how hard our life was with a sibling with special needs.  After a week of camp and talking with other kids who also had a sibling with disabilities, he had a change in perspective. 

He realized, though it wasn’t always easy, and there were times that his brothers needs took precedence over the rest of the family’s needs, we actually didn’t have it that bad. 

He had a greater appreciation of his brother’s different abilities and realized how much he could do, instead of the focus on what he couldn’t do.  He realized that there are some families who deal with much more than we did, and some who dealt with much less. 


special needs camps for siblings


Siblings Can Become Camp Volunteers

After two years of being a sibling camper, he decided he wanted to go as a helper.  He started out as a Barnstormer and spent a week for two consecutive summers helping clean bathrooms, serve food, set up for the parties and anything else needed. 

His final year at Camp Barnabas was as a one on one helper.  That week stretched him and taught him so much.  The student he cared for was non-verbal, wheelchair bound with intellectual and behavioral disabilities. 

He learned how to help calm his camper down when having sensory overload, helped him eat, bathe, and changed his diaper.  I saw my 16-year-old son go to camp as a kid and come home as a young man with a level of compassion for others much beyond his age.   


A Week Of Respite For Me And My Husband

The benefits of this week long camp did not stop with my children.  This was the first real break for more than a night or two since my son’s adoption. 

After several surgeries, fighting for services for my son, seeking the right doctors to unlock the diagnosis in my kid who never fit in a diagnostic box, I was ready for a break. 

I need that time to get a full night’s sleep, to have time with my husband and friends, to do projects that I wanted to do that were difficult as a caregiver.  To just have a break from always being on call.  A time to rest and rejuvenate and be ready to be a better mom to my kids.   


Special Needs Camp Directory

Here is a directory of special needs camps.  You can choose camps that specialize in your child’s diagnosis and by location.  I hope you find a suitable camp for your child.


 You Need A Break From You Special Needs Child

As a caregiver of a child with special needs, it is important to take care of yourself, so that you have the strength to take care of your child.  

Specifically, as a mama of a child with special needs, we can often start to feel like we have to be the one to do it all.  It wasn’t easy to send my son to camp for the first time, but I am so glad I did. 

It was an amazing experience for him and a much-needed respite for me.  If you’ve never looked for a special needs camp, start looking, it might be one of the best weeks of both you and your child’s life. 

More Articles About Being a Special Needs Parent:

Finding Respite Care

Find Your Tribe

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Kids LOVE Special Needs Camps!

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