Summer is here! For many people with autism, the change in routine can be difficult. Some parents worry that progress that may have been made during the school year will be affected once school is out. There are many factors to consider and a number of options to keep in mind when determining the best summer plans for your child, as well as your family.
Autism Speaks has compiled the information and resources below to help guide you as you make your summer schedule!
Camp is one of the best ways for an individual with autism to have fun, relax and take a break from a busy schedule during the summer. You may have to do some of the groundwork, calling camps, going online, contacting agencies, etc. to find the right fit.
Here are a few tips to get started:
- Visit the Autism Speaks Resource Guide. Select your state and select the category Camps. Enter your zip code.
- Visit the American Camp Association website at www.acacamps.org. This site has thousands of listings, and there is an option to specify that you are looking for a camp serving children or young adults with autism.
- Try a simple internet search.
- Visit your local library and ask the librarian to assist in your search.
- Check with your child's teacher. Many schools maintain a list of local camps.
- Contact Local Autism Organizations or Support Groups in the Autism Speaks Resource Guide.
Once you have narrowed down your list of local camps to those that might meet your child’s needs, interests and schedule, you can use the questions below to help evaluate your options:
- Does this camp have a history of accepting individuals with autism? What percentage of campers have ASD?
- Can they give you names of parents who can offer references?
- What, if any, therapeutic activities are offered?
- What are their safety protocols, emergency transportation procedures, insurance coverage, and missing camper emergency procedure?
- What types of training does the staff get for special needs children?
- Does the camp permit an aide to accompany a camper? What is the camper to staff ratio?
- Are all staff members trained in First Aid and CPR? Are licensed medical professionals available during camp session? Can the camp carry out special medical procedures or required therapies for your child?
Camps can be expensive. There will be some work required on your part to research and contact camps, but the good news is that most camps offer scholarships or provide a sliding scale based on financial need. We've put together a list of ideas to help you find a camper scholarship:
Don't hesitate to ask the camp. Most camps offer a sliding scale based on family income. Important questions to ask about camp scholarships and financial aid include:
- What sources of funding do they have for camper financial aid?
- What financial information do they require?
- Are there partial scholarships available?
- How many campers are served by a scholarship funds?
Local service organizations may be a good place to start. Check with your local service clubs such as: Lions, Kiwanis, Rotary Clubs, etc. as they often support individual camper scholarships.
Although many state budgets have been reduced for items like camp funding, it may be worth a call to ask your state departments of disability how you can access funding.
Community fundraising is a creative way to raise funds to cover the cost of camp: organize a car wash, bake sale, or recycle day and let your family and friends know the proceeds go to cover the cost of camp.
Autism Speaks is committed to promoting inclusion of children and adults with autism across all programs and organizations for families. Leading the Way: Autism-Friendly Youth Organizations is a guide to help organizations learn to integrate youth with autism into existing programs, communicate with parents, and train their staff. Please feel free to share this guide with any camps, sports programs, or other youth organizations your child might be interested in!
Another option to consider is requesting an Extended School Year (ESY) program through your child’s school district or at the next IEP meeting. If there is evidence that a child experiences a substantial regression in skills during school vacations, he/she may be entitled to ESY services. These services would be provided over long breaks from school (summer vacation) to prevent substantial regression. This is usually discussed during annual IEP reviews, but if you are concerned about regression, now is the best time to bring it up with your child’s team at school. Some children attend the camps listed in our Resource Guide as part of their Extended School Year (ESY) program.
If camp is not the right fit for your child or you are unable to make it work this summer, you may want to consider other local recreation programs that may meet weekly. The Autism Speaks Resource Guide is a good place to start! Search the Recreation and Community Activities or the After School Programs categories, or reach out to Local Autism Organizations to see if they are aware of programs in your area that best meet your needs.
Since 2010, Autism Speaks has distributed over $1.1 million in scholarship funding to over nearly 300 camps across the United States.
Search the Autism Speaks Grants Database to see the camps we have funded near you!
For additional information, please reach out to the Autism Speaks Autism Response Team at 888-288-4762 (en Espanol 888-772-9050) or email@example.com.