Step Three The Final Questions
1. How much time do I have to get the camper to camp?
Camps may have buses to get campers back and forth, others can connect you to cab companies that specialize in transporting children or you may choose to drive your child to camp. Choosing a camp just because it’s the closest to you, isn’t always the best choice if you’re looking for camp staff with specialized programming or staff with specific training and experience.
2. When do I want my camper to go to camp?
It may be difficult to get your exact dates so register early and be prepared to be flexible with your dates especially if it’s a specific program you want.
3. Does the camp have a system to transport campers to and from camp?
If the camp offers transportation, it should provide detailed information about pick-up and drop-off points, costs, and the quality and amount of supervision.
4. How much am I willing to pay?
Camps will range from $0 to $1,000.00 plus per week. Research your camps of choice online at www.ontariocamps.ca call the camp for information and meetings, before you register so that you can make an informed decision. Some camps charge additional fees for: one-on-one worker fee for campers with special needs and for incidentals. If you are looking for financial assistance please ask if it is available! If the camp itself doesn’t offer assistance, please refer to the Ontario Camps Association website www.ontariocamps.ca for funding options ** or call the office at 416-485-0425.
Camps Working Towards Inclusion For Campers With Special Needs
Questions to ask the camp:
1. What is the percentage of children with special needs within the camp population? True integration should be around 10% of the population.
2. Is my child fully included into a cabin/tent/group or are they assimilated into the general camp program?
3. How the camp plans on supporting a child with my camper’s needs?
4. What training do staff receive who are working directly with my child? How old are they? Ontario Camps Association Standards recommends a minimum of 16 years of age for a day camp staff member and 17 years of age for a residential camp staff member.
5. How are transitions between programs managed? Does each new camp session have brand new campers or do campers register for two (2) week sessions throughout the summer with some staying all eight (8) weeks?
6. For campers who require additional strategies such as visual reminders/PEC’s will these be available or will the family have to provide them?
7. How often do the staff communicate with parents and how is this managed (e.g. communication book)?
Will the camp be able to support my camper and his or her needs?
A specialized camp probably is the best option for a child who requires a lot of additional care. Think of it this way, if your child requires one-to-one support to be successful at school, they probably will need one-to-one care to be successful at camp! Camp is a very social setting and campers may need even more support to get the most out of their camp experience. Camps will work hard to ensure that the option of extra support can be provided and/or programs and staffing are tailored to your camper’s needs.
These camps offer activities/programs within an environment specifically designed for children with particular challenges. Examples of these programs are day camps that Autism Ontario Chapters operate or residential camps that Easter Seals Ontario operates.
Additional Suggestions For Campers Who Have Special Needs
Ensure your camper tours the facility ahead of time and that you have some adjustment time during the tour. This will let you know areas of the facility which may be of concern.
If your camper is non-verbal or low verbal, send your camper with a small plastic photo album with photos of common items that he/she will use at camp (e.g. swim area, toilets, showers, change room, dining hall, lunch shelter, playground). The camper and staff can use this album to communicate. Some campers may do well if you get the actual photos from the camp ahead of time.
Create laminated charts with words and Velcro to help the camper and staff with the steps or schedule of the day for instruction (e.g. first “change room” then “swim”). Some campers will comprehend a more complicated laminated page with multiple instructions.
It is hard to leave your child with a camp program sometimes, say your good-bye and then leave regardless of what’s going on (unless of course the camp requests that you stay). The camp should call you if your child’s behaviour is beyond their capacity. Enjoy your time while your child is at camp so your batteries are recharged for when they return home.
You’re ready to search for a program that meets your campers’ needs at www.ontariocamps.ca.
Remember that you and the camp are both working towards a successful camp experience.
When reviewing this checklist, you may want to ask yourself: “Have I addressed the following items with the camp or have they discussed these things with me?”
- What makes my camper happy?
- What makes me happy with the camp experience?
- Goals of experience
- Communicating with my camper and camp staff
- Behaviour management/de-escalation
- General Camp information
- Emergency contacts
- What to bring
- When visiting camp, what not to bring? Coming with a friend? Sibling?
- Will my child be outdoors or indoors all day?
- Fees, taxes, payment, subsidy
- Healthcare facilities and professionals on site
- Medication/medication dispensing
- Severe allergy management plan
- Sun safety
- Healthcare management
- Dietary preferences/allergies/concerns
- Personal support (eating bathing, bathroom, etc.)
- Time alone
- Bringing personal toys, electronics, etc.
- Program expulsion. What will make my camper be removed from the camp program?
- Program withdrawal. What contractual responsibilities and/or processes are in place should my camper be removed from the program by the camp or by me?
- Program Activity Success Suggestions
- Review the program activities outlined in your camp’s brochure and consider if any activity may require more or less support than usual for your camper due to his or her individual needs.
- Non Program Activity Success Suggestions
- Consider the times in-between structured programming including changing, walking to the other programs, quiet times, bed time, meal times, and other unstructured times. Consider if any of these activities may require more or less support than usual for your camper due to their individual needs.