10 Best Summer Camps in Chicago for Kids with Autism
Updated: August 19, 2022 · 8 Minute Read
- We’ve compiled a list of the 10 best summer camps in the Chicago area, all vetted and approved by camp insiders and families.
- Each camp on this list is equipped to work with children on the autism spectrum and their unique, individual needs.
Warmer days and shorter nights can only mean one thing, it’s time to put away those heavy coats because summer is on its way!
With summer approaching you may be starting to think about how you’re going to spend your summer, and how to fill those school-less days for your child. You may be thinking about summer camp, but where to begin? How do you find the right camp for your child’s unique needs? Will a day camp or overnight camp be best? Maybe your child has a special interest you want to help them explore. No need to be overwhelmed, we are here to help!
Whether this will be your child’s first summer camp experience or they are a seasoned camper, something on our list is sure to be a match.
Find summer adventures right in your own backyard! With field trips, outdoor activities, swim days, and more, these day camps prove that a memorable summer is closer than you think.
Why we love it: Sending your child to summer camp doesn’t mean you need to send your child out into the woods or out to a lake. Campyardigans brings the fun of summer camp into a community setting complete with a plethora of activities including sports, games, swimming, arts, outdoor activities, community outings, and more! While staying busy, and making memories, campers will learn and practice engaging socially with their peers and staff, as well as build fine and gross motor skills while exploring new interests.
Pricing Information: $263 per session. Each session is one week, Monday-Friday. Because there will be no camp on July 5, that week’s session will be $210.
Perfect for: Ages 5–13｜1:1–4:1 Camper to Counselor ratio | Day Camp | After School, Weekend, & Summer Programs Available
Important to note: Payment plans and financial assistance may be available, please see the camp website for additional information.
Camp Quest｜Website｜West Chicago, IL
Why we love it: A new summer camp coming to the Chicago area this summer, Camp Quest will provide your child with all-day fun and lots of new experiences! Meeting onsite at the ARC in West Chicago, the facility offers many amenities including an outdoor swimming pool, a large outdoor green space with a park and nature trails, an indoor treehouse play space, and a large indoor field house. A summer with Camp Quest will include weekly swim experiences and field trips. Camp Quest is one of the many programs offered by WDSRA (Western DuPage Special Recreation Association), whose goal is to provide fun, engaging community-based social and recreational programs for individuals of all ages with special needs.
Pricing Information: $725 for 6 weeks
Perfect for: Ages 8–21｜3:1 Camper to Counselor ratio* | Day Camp | After School, Weekend, Fall, Winter, Spring, & Summer Programs Available
*Important to note: New campers will be required to complete an intake assessment where it will be determined if 1:1 support is necessary.
Camp SEASPAR｜Website｜Multiple Locations
Why we love it: This summer Camp SEASPAR will be offering three different camps, Kids Camp for ages 5–12, Teen & Adult Camp for ages 3–22, and an afternoon ESY (Extended School Year) Camp for families looking for an afternoon option. A summer at Camp SEASPAR will be filled with activities including art projects, aquatic experiences, field trips, and indoor/outdoor activities. All activities are specifically designed to help your child discover new skills, achieve their full potential, and realize their dreams.
Pricing Information: Varies by location and session.
Perfect for: Ages 5–22｜Camper to Counselor ratio varies depending on camper’s need | Day Camp | After School, Weekend, Fall, Winter, Spring, & Summer Programs Available
Important to note: Camp SEASPAR is only available to specific communities. You can click here for a complete list of eligible neighborhoods and non-resident policies.
Traditions Day Camp｜Website｜Carbondale, IL
Why we love it: At Traditions Day camp your child will have the opportunity to play and explore the outdoors while they learn new skills. A day at Traditions may include games, hiking, arts and crafts, and therapeutic drumming. Traditions Day Camp is hosted by Camp Little Giant, an outdoor camp established in 1952 to cater to the specific needs of differently-abled campers, including those with neurodevelopmental disorders, musculoskeletal impairments, neurological impairments, neuromuscular impairments, and sensory challenges. With a deeply rooted history of serving kids with special needs, Camp Little Giant was the first camp accredited by the American Camp Association and helped pave the way for the Special Olympics.
Pricing Information: $400 for a week-long experience, Monday-Friday.
Perfect for: Ages 9–17 | 4:1 Camper to Counselor ratio | Day Camp | Summer Only
Important to note: “Camperships” or scholarships may be available, please contact the camp directly for additional information.
One in a Hundred｜Website｜Northbrook, IL
Why we love it: Established in 2009, One in a Hundred Summer Camp is designed to help children who have challenges establishing and maintaining friendships develop social language skills while enjoying a traditional summer camp experience. To help improve and practice social pragmatic language and self-regulation skills, campers will engage in drama games and activities where they get to pull scenarios from their own camp experience. Campers will also have the opportunity to participate in outdoor games, taekwondo, yoga, art and crafts, and more! Different theme days will take place throughout the camp session, including days like Super Hero Day and Olympic Day.
Pricing Information: $4,000 for the full 5-week experience
Perfect for: 1st — 8th Grade｜2:1 Camper to Counselor ratio | Day Camp | Summer Only
Important to note: Scholarships may be available, please contact the camp directly for more information.
An overnight camp can give your child a chance to develop a stronger sense of independence while making new friends and discovering new interests. They might swim in a lake, learn to shoot a bow and arrow, try out team courses, and enjoy evenings around a campfire.
Camp Duncan｜Website｜Ingleside, IL
Why we love it: Camp Duncan is a five-day overnight camping experience in Ingleside located on 278 acres besides Fish Lake. With boating, archery, hiking, team courses, and an indoor Olympic size swimming pool, this is guaranteed to be a fun-filled week for your child. Camp fees cover transportation, meals, and accommodations for your child.
Pricing Information: $1,600 — $1,900 for a 5 day experience
Perfect for: Ages 8–21｜1:1–4:1 Camper to Counselor ratio | Overnight | After School, Weekend & Summer Programs Available
Important to note: Any new camper interested in attending Camp Duncan is required to first attend another short trip in order to properly gauge their eligibility. Also, all campers must be fully vaccinated against COVID to attend this year.
Camp Red Leaf｜Website｜Ingleside, IL
Why we love it: Focused on serving kids and adults with developmental disabilities, Camp Red Leaf takes place on the grounds of Camp Nageela. Activities at Camp Red Leaf focus on increasing campers’ self-esteem, improving their social skills, and encouraging their independence in a natural environment. A summer at Camp Red Leaf will be filled with opportunities to discover nature, meet new people, and learn new skills. Because Camp Red Leaf caters to such a large range of ages and abilities, various levels of care are available to campers.
Pricing Information: Cost varies by session, please see Camp Red Leaf’s website for more details.
Perfect for: Ages 9+｜1:1 Camper to Counselor ratio | Overnight | Summer Only
Important to note: If Camp Red Leaf sounds like the right match for your child, but you aren’t sure if they are ready for the overnight experience, Camp Red Leaf also offers day camp programs as well.
Looking for something a little different or a little more specific? If your child loves the arts, wild animals, or nature, these specialty camps offer a tailored summer camp experience for your child and their special interests.
Camp Red Kite｜Website｜Chicago, IL
Why we love it: Specifically designed for young people on the autism spectrum, Camp Red Kite is a theater day camp that will give your child an opportunity to explore their interests in the arts! Over the course of three weeks, campers will rotate between classes in their age-appropriate small groups. In these classes, campers will explore drama, music, movement, and visual arts. At the end of camp, campers will perform in a final showcase at a potluck lunch with family and friends.
Pricing Information: $900 for the entire three-week experience.
Perfect for: Ages 8–22｜8:3 Camper to Counselor ratio | Day Camp | Summer Only
Why we love it: Lions, tigers, bears, giraffes and so much more! If your child loves wild animals, look no further than Zoo Camp for their summer experience. Zoo Camp at Brookfield’s Zoo provides young children of all abilities the opportunity to connect with animals and nature in new, fun, and exciting ways. Campers at Zoo Camp will spend their days exploring the zoo through play activities with their camp counselors. Zoo Camp sessions last one week and each week will offer new and unique experiences.
Pricing Information: $275 for ages 4–5 and $450 for K-1 per session.
Perfect for: Pre K — 1st Grade｜Day Camp | Summer Only
Important to note: Ages 4–5 will participate in a half-day camp experience, while kids in Kindergarten — First grade will participate in a full-day camp experience.
Camp R.E.A.L.｜Website｜Evanston, IL
Why we love it: Does your child love the outdoors? If so, Camp R.E.A.L. may be an awesome option for your family. Camp R.E.A.L (Recreation/Ecology At Lovelace) is an all-inclusive mini-camp focused on ecology and the outdoors! Camp activities include arts and crafts, ecology activities, two weekly field trips, beach days, and opportunities to try different sports. Please note, because the camp does welcome such a wide range of ages, campers are separated into smaller, age-appropriate groups.
Pricing Information: $345 Resident fee (anyone who lives within the zip code 60201 or 60202) and $400 Non Resident fee for the three-week camp
Perfect for: Ages 3–21｜Camper to Counselor ratio varies depending on child’s needs | Day Camp | After School, Weekend, & Summer Programs Available
Spectrum Sailing｜Website｜Chicago, IL
Why we love it: A brand new camp is coming to Chicago this summer! Established in South Carolina, founder, Scott Herman, was looking for a sailing camp for his Autistic son, and when he couldn’t find one he decided to create his own. Herman created Camp Cool to give children with autism the opportunity to learn to sail. This three-day camp provides campers the chance to learn about different kinds of knots, parts of the boat, why the boat sails, and most importantly how to sail! Camp Cool also has land activities based on STEM education, and nautical-themed games and crafts. If there isn’t enough wind to sail, instructors will lead campers in team-building opportunities to promote self-confidence and self-esteem.
Pricing Information: Free
Perfect for: Ages 10–17｜Day Camp | Summer Only
Stuck on which one to pick? Check out our guide on choosing the right summer camps for autistic children!