Most parents take sleepover camp as a given when their child becomes a pre-teen. For my younger daughter, it entailed filling out a two-page form and dropping her off on the start date.
But for my older son Ben, who has multiple disabilities, it seemed we’d never find a place he fit.
Many camps are targeted to typical kids and aren’t physically accessible. Others are open to kids with a very specific disability. For example, they’ll take a child with a physical disability, but not a developmental disability. Or, they’ll take a child with a learning disability, but not behavioural issues. Or, they’ll take your child, but in addition to the camp fees – which are significant – you need to pay a private worker to accompany your child.
And what if your worker doesn’t feel like roughing it in the woods? One summer – before sanity kicked in – I found myself pricing nearby bed and breakfasts for a worker who didn’t want to sleep at overnight camp.
So I was excited this year when I heard rave reviews about Camp Winston, an overnight Ontario camp for kids with neurological disabilities like Tourette’s and autism, who also have challenging behaviour. A parent recommends the camp in our Summer 2009 issue of BLOOM. But when I contacted the camp to enquire about Ben attending, I was told there was a wait list of 500 children.
Five-hundred kids waiting for a spot at one camp! That’s enough kids to start a whole new camp. And I bet that’s just the tip of the iceberg in terms of children with disabilities who are waiting to attend a camp that meets their needs and welcomes them.
Camp Winston told us about Camp Kennebec, another Ontario camp tailored to kids with learning disabilities, behavioural issues and autism. We were impressed when the staff visited Ben and us at our home to describe the program and assess whether it would work for Ben.
They told us they’d get back to us in a week and I was on pins and needles, wondering if my boy would finally get a chance to experience camp life (and for my hubby and me to enjoy our first week of respite).
Ben was accepted for a week of camp, on condition that we were able to hire a worker to go to camp with him.
We didn’t qualify for any financial assistance for camp, so it will cost $1,900 for the one week of camp itself, plus what we pay our worker – a small fortune.
Does your child with disabilities attend overnight camp? What were the obstacles? Where did you find success?