10 Best Summer Camps in San Francisco for Kids with Autism
Updated: August 19, 2022 · 12 Minute Read
- With over 200 summer camps in the Bay Area to choose from, picking the right one for your child can be overwhelming. That’s why we’ve done the searching for you and located the 10 best summer camps in San Francisco for children with autism.
You can have peace of mind knowing this guide has been vetted and approved by camp insiders and families. You'll find in our list camps that cater to a variety of interests and budgets —everything from classic cabin experiences to sailing excursions. Please bear in mind that these camps have limited availability and may fill up quickly, so when you’ve found the perfect fit for your family, don’t delay in reaching out to the camp directly for sign-up information. Here are the top 10 camps for kids on the autism spectrum!
In this section of our list, you’ll find camps that are available to kids of all ages and interests. They ranked at the top of our list because of their broad applicability and fantastic reviews.
image credit: Camp Krem Facebook
Why we love it: Bonfires, campfire songs, talent shows, sleeping in a cabin with your new friends, bonding over games and crafts, hikes in the gorgeous California outdoors – sounds like the classic summer camp experience, right? Since 1957, Camp Krem has been providing that perfect summer getaway for thousands of children, youth, and adults of all abilities. They’re committed to fostering independence, freedom of choice, and fun in individuals with autism and other “disabilities”. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Camp Krem is back this year after a devastating wildfire, with a new campus and a persevering spirit, Camp Krem Yosemite boasts a large (and growing) campus with archery range, gardening, a full industrial kitchen (for those baking lessons), swimming pool, traditional cabins, an amazing sensory room, and more! Knowledgeable staff will consult with you to determine the best accommodations and options for your child, and trained counselors are eager to work one-on-one with them. Space is extremely limited this year, so don’t hesitate to reach out to Camp Krem directly for enrollment information. Your child is sure to enjoy everything summer has to offer at Camp Krem!
Pricing Information: Camp Krem Yosemite is updating their website as information becomes available – please check in with them directly.
Perfect for: Ages 5+｜1:1 or 3:1 Camper to Counselor ratio | Overnight | Summer & Spring Programs Available
image credit: Via Services, Inc. Facebook
Why we love it: The dynamic experience Via West offers children and their families feels too good to be true! For over 70 years, Via Services has been providing trustworthy respite care (planned breaks for caregivers) to families while focusing on building participant’s life skills and having fun. Via West has seemingly endless options to get kids out of the house, from weekend and overnight trips to day programs and group outings, they’ve got just the thing for kids and parents – providing that much needed break you both need. At Via West, you’ll find trained staff, a variety of well-planned and exciting experiences, and a culture that cultivates self-sufficiency, exploration, and skill-building. Their programs are designed with special needs in mind, but don’t short-change on the fun. From field trips, hiking, camping, music, cooking and sports, to art, theater, and more, Via West is sure to have an activity that will spark your child’s excitement and have them longing to return. The Via West summer program operates in sessions according to age group, so check out their website for particulars.
Pricing Information: Via West will be issuing pricing & updated summer program information for 2022 soon. Please check their website or contact them directly.
Perfect for: Ages 5-22 or Teens/Young Adults aged 16+｜1:1, 2:1, or 3:1 Camper to Counselor ratio | Day, Weekend & Overnight Programs Available
image credit: Camp Chaverim
Why we love it: If you’re looking for a tailored option that offers exceptional support for your child with autism, look no further than Camp Chaverim (meaning “friends'' in Hebrew)! Located within the Addison-Penzak Jewish Community Center, Camp Chaverim’s inclusive program welcomes children from all backgrounds, especially neurodiverse and differently-abled kids. As the name implies, Camp Chaverim is all about creating social connections between youth in a fun, flexible environment. The staff at Camp Chaverim understand that all children have unique needs, so they work with you to form a support and activity plan tailored specifically to your child (including flexible scheduling for days when life just ‘happens’). Once a plan is put in place, your child will be assigned to the camp group that best suits them, with the help of their personal aide. These groups include all the traditional summer fun you’d want – swimming, art, sports, etc. A trained, supportive counselor will offer as much or little support as your child needs in order to build confidence, make friends, participate in activities, and make those special summer memories.
Pricing Information: Regular weekly camp fees (TBD based upon your child’s age and abilities) + $200 per week, with no minimum time commitment. Financial aid is available; please contact Camp Chaverim directly for more details.
Perfect for: Ages 6-12 (entering 1st - 6th grade)｜1:1 Camper to Counselor ratio | Day Program | Summer Only | Siblings Welcome
image credit: Quest Camps
Why we love it: Quest’s exciting program combines clinical expertise with traditional summer fun (Six Flags and pizza parties, anyone?). At Quest, kids can look forward to plentiful and diverse activities set within a dependable routine schedule. From hiking and swimming to “Quests'' that may include animation, art, yoga, science, and sports, your child is sure to find their niche. Quest’s experienced and therapeutic approach includes group psychotherapy sessions and supervision from qualified, licensed therapists, with years of practice in working with children on the spectrum. In other words, they really know their stuff! A summer at Quest Camps will leave your child feeling included, celebrated, and further along in their social and behavioral goals.
Pricing Information: $925 per week + $175 New Camper Screening fee. (Children must commit to a minimum of three weeks, but may attend additional weeks as desired). Insurance may cover the cost of Quest Camps.
Perfect for: Ages 6-18｜5:1 Camper to Counselor ratio | Day Program | Summer & Afterschool Programs Available
Important to note: At this time, Quest only accepts children with low-support needs and/or mild social, emotional, and behavioral challenges.
In this section of our list, you’ll find camps that are tailored to specific age groups, hours, and interests. These camps tend to be more intimate, small-group experiences with a specialized focus that will be memorable and meaningful for your child. Scroll on to discover more thrilling summer adventures!
image credit: Cal State East Bay
Why we love it: Searching for a way to improve your child’s communication and social skills this summer? You’ll find the Pioneer Pals summer program at California State University (East Bay) is a perfect fit. The brainchild of the Rees Speech, Language, and Hearing Clinic, Pioneer Pals enlists students who are pursuing careers in speech language pathology (supervised by clinical experts) to guide children through a variety of fun and richly educational activities. Their project-based approach may include activities like STEM, art, coding, theater, and more – offering your child the opportunity to find their newest favorite thing, while helping them develop friendships and skills to manage wellness, emotions, and stress. While Pioneer Pals consists of actual therapy, you’ll be relieved to know that children do not need a referral or official “diagnosis” to attend this clinic. (If necessary, they will perform an evaluation for your child before attending.) Pioneer Pals runs in one week sessions through the month of July, with a new theme each week, and kids can attend as many or as few weeks as you’d like. After going virtual for the past two years, Pioneer Pals’ staff is excited to get back to serving children in person this summer.
Pricing Information: TBA
Perfect for: Ages 5 - 12 | Day Program | Summer & Afterschool Programs Available
image credit: friendship explorations
Why we love it: As an extension of the speech language and occupational therapy provider Ready Set Go Therapy, Friendship Explorations seeks to make outdoor exploration and summer fun accessible to children of all abilities. Their knowledgeable staff will speak with you beforehand to determine the right support level and therapeutic approach for your child. Do you sometimes worry that your child will not be able to participate in traditional outdoor fun safely? No worries! Friendship Explorations is made for families just like yours. Their staff only works with small groups of campers at a time, and customize every session to that group’s unique needs. Your child will get to take in the majestic California outdoors, including beach, mountains, and redwoods – all while learning social skills, self-regulation, and play, alongside peers and staff (including a qualified occupational or speech language therapist). Friendship Explorations also offers a variety of helpful services included with or in addition to the cost of camp, so you can make the most of your child’s outdoor therapy.
Pricing Information: $855 per one-week session + optional additional services. Discount available for multi-week attendance.
Perfect for: Ages 4-13｜3:1 Camper to Counselor ratio | Day Program | Half-Day | Summer, Spring, & Winter Programs Available
image credit: KEEN Facebook
Why we love it: Ahoy, matey! Does your child love pirates, sailors, or being on the water? Give them the chance to sail on a ship of their own! We know what you’re thinking – but if you’re concerned about safety, have no fear. In partnership with Treasure Island Sailing Center (TISC), KEEN Sailing’s program allows children the opportunity to “learn the ropes” of sailing with training that is meticulously engineered for safety. Lessons are conducted on a unique ship that is near impossible to capsize, which is built for collaborative, side-by-side steering. Led by a certified sailing coach, and supported by KEEN’s coaches, children will learn water safety, rigging, and how to navigate and steer their vessels, all while building confidence and enjoying an unforgettable voyage. This incredible program has extremely limited availability, so be sure to check in with KEEN directly, and while you’re at it, inquire about their other equally amazing program offerings, including climbing experiences and more!
Pricing Information: Free! All of KEEN’s programs service children of all abilities at no cost.
Perfect for: Ages 5-21｜1:1 or 2:1 Camper to Counselor ratio | Half-Day Program | Summer Only
image credit: Sequoia Village Schoolhouse Facebook
Why we love it: We know that the summer break can be tough. Whether your child has yet to enter school, or just got the hang of it and is finding time away from teachers and classmates difficult, the Summer Buddies educational program at Sequoia Village Schoolhouse can bridge the gap. A well-rounded staff including educators, speech language, occupational, behavioral and other therapists, will guide your child through summer learning. They’re equipped to cover everything from math skills to language and social skills, all while keeping their motto “make learning feel like play!” Sequoia Village is an independent school that knows how to work with kids of all abilities, and enjoys seeing your child thrive. In addition to Summer Buddies, they offer PreK-8 independent education, sensory and social play groups, plus spring and fall programs. If you’re looking for a program that will help your child excel academically this summer, without being bored to tears, check out Summer Buddies at Sequoia Village!
Pricing Information: $2,925 per three-week session. Two sessions are available and students are welcome to participate in both.
Perfect for: Ages 4-12｜3:1 Camper to Counselor ratio | Day Program (Times vary based upon agre group) | Summer & Year-Round Programs Available!
image credit: PARCA
Why we love it: This affordable, inclusive option is a smaller program great for kids that require a less extroverted, more low-key experience without compromising on socialization and fun! Filled with activities like crafts, puzzles, outdoor play, and more, REACH keeps the stimulation flowing while still offering ample support and opportunities for decompression. The experienced and caring PARCA staff focuses on creating an atmosphere that celebrates diversity and friendship, while ensuring your child’s unique needs are met. You may also want to check out their afterschool program which fosters friendship among children of differing abilities while providing fun experiences in cooking, science, and even homework help! Please note that REACH has a small number of spots available, and they can fill up fast.
Pricing Information: $210 for the first week, $185 for subsequent weeks. Discounts offered for multi-child enrollment and for attending the full nine weeks.
Perfect for: Ages 5-13｜8:1 or 3:1 Camper to Counselor ratio | Day Program | Summer & Afterschool Programs Available
image credit: Camp Harmon
Why we love it: Tucked in the redwoods of the Santa Cruz mountains, Camp Harmon is an overnight camp with a rich history of inclusion, community, and fostering the pioneer spirit. Easter Seals has operated the camp since 1964 with a commitment to provide the classic summer camp experience to people with physical and/or developmental challenges. Their sprawling forty acre campus has everything a kid could dream of – a farm, a heated pool, heated cabins, athletic field, a garden, and even a golfing green! While Camp Harmon usually offers several one-week overnight sessions throughout the summer, this year they’ll be limiting their offerings to “mini-sessions” for campers. Camp Harmon celebrates and cultivates independence through activities like swimming, hiking, games, archery, arts and crafts, and more, while ensuring campers’ unique needs are met. At Camp Harmon, your child will make friends, get active, and enjoy a classic summer experience they’re sure to remember for a lifetime.
Pricing Information: TBD. Insurance may cover the cost of Camp Harmon; please see their website for more details.
Perfect for: Ages 8-65 | 3:1 Camper to Counselor ratio | Overnight | Summer Only
If you don't know which one to pick, check out our guide on choosing the right summer camps for autistic children!