Question of the Week

February 27, 2006


While the calendar may still officially say, "Winter," it is the time of year when many start making plans for summer and summer camp. For those with special needs or special interests, the search for just the right camp can pose unique challenges.

"When it comes to camps, children with special needs actually have as many choices as children who have no such needs. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires all camps to make reasonable accommodations (such as the installation of wheelchair-accessible ramps) so that children with special needs can attend. ... Inclusionary (or mainstream) camps do just what their name implies: They include children with special needs in their groups of children with regular needs. ... "

Even with The Americans with Disabilities Act, those with special needs may encounter challenges when trying to find an inclusionary camp.

"* Centers cannot exclude children with disabilities unless their presence would pose a direct threat to the health or safety of others or require a fundamental alteration of the program.
* Centers have to make reasonable modifications to their policies and practices to integrate children, parents, and guardians with disabilities into their programs unless doing so would constitute a fundamental alteration.
* Centers must provide appropriate auxiliary aids and services needed for effective communication with children or adults with disabilities when doing so would not constitute an undue burden.
* Centers must generally make their facilities accessible to persons with disabilities. Existing facilities are subject to the readily achievable standard for barrier removal, while newly constructed facilities and any altered portions of existing facilities must be fully accessible. Programs cannot just assume that a child's disabilities are too severe for the child to be integrated successfully into the program. An individualized assessment must be done to determine if the particular needs of the child can be met without fundamentally altering the program."

For those who think that mainstream camps may not be the best fit:

"There are also camps designed just for kids with special needs, including kids who have learning or behavioral problems, kids with specific chronic illnesses, and kids with mental or physical impairments. Many of these camps accept children with a variety of needs, but some camps only accept kids with specific problems..."

Much like mainstream camps, camps for children with special needs are located all over the country. For example:

"In the Greater Cincinnati area there are many summer camps for children with special needs. Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center provides information on different camps for children with the following special needs:
* Asthma
* Cancer
* Crohn's Disease and Ulcerative Colitis
* Celiac Disease
* Dermatological Conditions
* Diabetes
* Disabilities
* Epilepsy
* Hearing-impaired
* Heart Disease
* Hemophilia
* Juvenile Arthritis
* Kidney
* Sickle Cell
* Therapeutic Recreation
* Ventilator-dependent / Tracheostomy"

Mainstream camps are required to do all they can to accommodate those with special needs. Children who want to be with their friends, or want to be with others in a mainstream camp have every opportunity to do so. So, why have special camps for those who can function in the mainstream?

"Kids with diabetes are in the minority ... except at diabetes camp. At camp, kids with diabetes are surrounded by people just like them -- both kids and adults who share their day to day challenges and triumphs managing diabetes. Diabetes camp gives kids the opportunity to meet and learn from adult counselors with diabetes who have gone through many of the things the campers are experiencing, and can share the ways they coped with the problems and pitfalls of having diabetes. The number one benefit both kids and their parents express is the ability to feel part of a group where everyone has diabetes and the feelings of isolation are eliminated. ... Parents' concerns range from nutrition to proper medical care and supplies, to learning how to manage diabetes during strenuous activities.  Teams of competent diabetes health care professionals staff each camp, and have the answers for all these situations and many more."

Are you (or is someone you know) looking for a camp to attend this summer?

"This is a guide to some of the directories and listings of summer camps. Half of these resources identify camps specifically intended for children who have disabilities. The other half are simply directories listing camp opportunities available to all children. Your community is also likely to have summer camps or recreational opportunities available. You probably won't find them listed in these directories! To find out what's available locally, you'll need to consult with local sources of information--your child‚s teachers, local recreation department, religious organizations in your area, fellow parents, and community groups...."

Not all people have special needs that are addressed at a specific camp. Not everyone with special needs would like to attend a camp that specifically caters to their needs. In addition to having camps that are designed to meet the special needs of those attending, there are also camps that are designed to address the unique interests of those who would like to someday work as a health professional. Examples from past summers include:

"Students will ... participate in activities that will help develop their critical thinking, communication and public speaking skills, including daily workshops on community health issues; skill development-critical thinking, presentation skills, team collaboration skills; library research; tours health care and university facilities; and field trips. The program's four principal components include: Youth Leadership Development, Community Health Projects, Exploring Careers in Health Care and Preparing to Apply to College. Student peer leaders will select a critical health issue from their home communities and develop an intervention plan to implement during the upcoming school year."


"Students who are interested in healthcare careers and who will be entering grades 10 and 11 this fall are invited to participate in HealthQuest. ... 'Students attending the camp at Ithaca College will learn about professions in health care other than doctor, dentist, or nurse,' says Steven Siconolfi, dean of the School of Health Sciences and Human Performance. 'Through interactive learning experiences with practicing professionals and college instructors, young people will be exposed to career possibilities in allied health fields that include occupational and physical therapy, speech-language pathology and audiology, athletic training, therapeutic recreation, and exercise science. Professions such as these are the silent majority in health care and provide the infrastructure for the highest quality of health care in the world.''

Not all of these camps are available in all areas. These camps may not all be available every year. In offering these examples, Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum is not endorsing any specific camp.

Questions of the Week:
What camps are available in your area? What camps interest you? Who would benefit most from a mainstream camp that can accommodate those with special needs? Who would benefit most from a camp designed specifically for those with special needs? What are the possible positives and negatives for campers (both special needs and mainstream) who attend inclusionary camps? What are the possible positives and negatives for special needs campers who attend camps specifically designed to address their unique needs? How are the camps that are designed specifically for teens with an interest in health professions meeting unique needs? Who would benefit most from camps that focus on the study of health issues and healthcare careers?

Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.

I look forward to reading what you have to say.

Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum

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