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The Best Summer Camps in the OC for Kids with Autism

6 Best Summer Camps in Orange County for Kids with Autism

Updated: August 29, 2023 · 6 Minute Read

Amy Gong

Reviewed by:

Amy Gong, Neurodiversity Advocate

Highlights

  • We’ve compiled a list of the best camps in Orange County!
  • Vetted and approved by camp insiders and families, each camp on this list is equipped to work with children with autism and other learning differences.
  • Many of these camps are day camps, while others offer the full overnight sleep-away experience.
  • Each camp is slightly different, with a different structure, different priorities, at a different price point.
  • The camps offer different activities, but each one can give your child a summer they’ll never forget.

Here are the 6 best camps in Orange County for kids with autism! Vetted and approved by camp insiders and families, each camp on this list is equipped to work with children with autism and other learning differences.

Day Camps:

 

 

Summer C.A.M.PWebsite|Yorba Linda and Irvine, CA

Why we love it: Clinically Advanced Multimodality Program or C.A.M.P., this summer program is designed specifically for children with mild to moderate learning, emotional, and behavioral difficulties. A camper’s experience is based on seven objectives — four group goals and three individual goals. Throughout each day, the camper will be evaluated on their performance in relation to their personal objectives. The objectives can be things like impulse control, cooperating with peers, adapting to losing, concentrating or staying on task, sharing with others, and the art of conversation. The ultimate goal of C.A.M.P. is to teach campers everyday life skills like mindfulness, attention to tasks, motor skills, teamwork, expression of emotion, cognitive skills, social interactions, and positive self-image. These goals are achieved through fun summer activities including horseback riding, yoga, kickboxing, art therapy, and therapeutic drama.

 

Pricing Information: Please contact the camp directly for pricing information.

 

Perfect for: Ages 4+|3:1 Camper to Counselor ratio | Day Camp | After School & Summer Programs Available

 

Important to note: Summer C.A.M.P. requests that campers enroll in a minimum of three weeks.

 

Image Credit: Camp James

 

Camp JamesWebsite|Newport Beach, CA

Why we love it: Allow your child to experience a traditional style outdoor camp that will still provide them with abundant opportunities to develop new (and improve old) skills at Camp James. Located directly on Newport Bay, all activities take place on the campgrounds. Children are separated into co-ed groups by age and have the opportunity to try a variety of activities daily. Camp James activities include archery (ages 8+), drama, go-karts (ages 6+), kayaks, laser tag, rock climbing (ages 6+), zipline (ages 10+), and more! Some form of water activity is offered to each age group daily, and while encouraged to try each activity their age allows, no camper is ever forced to participate in an activity they don’t want to. You can click here for a list of activities offered at Camp James.

 

Pricing Information: For parents that register their children before April 30, the rate is $420 per week and a minimum of two weeks is required. Any child registered after April 30 will be at the rate of $475 per week, but a minimum week commitment is NOT required.

 

Perfect for: Ages 4–13|Camper to Counselor ratio — Varies by campers age | Day Camp | Summer Only

 

Important to note: Medically trained staff are not on site. Staff receive basic First Aid and CPR training. Children who attend Camp James must be able to eat and use the toilet independently as well as self–monitor and manage their medical needs. Parents may provide their own aide or ABA therapist for the child, but advance notice and additional paperwork is required.

 

Image Credit: Quest Camps

 

Quest CampsWebsite|Fountain Valley, CA

Why we love it: Quest Camps combines aspects of cognitive-behavioral therapy, skills, and social development, and wraps the whole thing up in a traditional summer camp experience. Quest Camps are designed to be a complete therapeutic experience for campers, while still feeling like an ordinary day at camp. Campers will work on and towards individualized goals while participating in a variety of activities like team-building challenges, arts and crafts, and other hands-on activities.

 

Pricing Information: Quest Camp is a four-week experience running from June 27 — July 22. Any camper who registers before June 1 will enjoy the early bird rate of $3,295. After June 1 the rate increases to $3,695. There is an additional $150 fee for all new campers.

 

Perfect for: Ages 6–18|4:1 and 5:1 Camper to Counselor ratio depending on age group | Day Camp | After School & Summer Programs Available

 

Important to note: Quest Camps currently only accept children with low to moderate social, emotional, or behavioral support needs.

Image Credit: Long Beach State APE

 

Camp NuggetWebsite|Long Beach, CA (Ok, this is technically in LA but we had to include this amazing camp!)

Why we love it: Focused on movement and fitness, Camp Nugget is designed to give children with disabilities the opportunities to enjoy and successfully participate in physical activities. Camp Nugget is filled with positive health-related fitness, fundamental motor skills, aquatics, cooperative games, and sports experiences for campers. A day at Camp Nugget will consist of warm-ups, health-related fitness, motor skills, dance, cooperative games, sports activities, relaxation techniques, and daily swimming lessons.

 

Pricing Information: Camp Nugget runs from June 20 — July 25 and costs $500, which covers both the camp experience and parking.

 

Perfect for: Ages 5–12 | 4:1 Camper to Counselor ratio | Day Camp | After School & Summer Programs Available

 

Important to note: Camp Nugget is administered by the Adapted Physical Education Program in the Department of Kinesiology at Cal State Long Beach. Camp activities are taught and led by CSULB Adapted Physical Education students.

Get your child out of the house and into the great outdoors! These overnight camps take your child into Southern California’s gorgeous mountains and give them a true traditional summer camp experience with outdoor activities like horseback riding, swimming, canoeing, archery, and hiking, all while catering to your child’s unique needs.

 

Image Credit: Camp Paivika

 

Camp PaivikaWebsite|Cedarpines Park, CA

Why we love it: Created for people of all ages with mild to severe developmental and physical disabilities such as autism, ADHD, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, and located in the beautiful San Bernadino National Forest, Camp Paivika offers a traditional overnight summer camp experience for your child. Days at Camp Paivika are filled with well-supervised morning-to-night activities that are creatively adapted to enable new experiences and encourage participation. Camp activities include swimming, horseback riding, arts and crafts, performing arts, and nature studies. At night campers can enjoy campfires, dances, karaoke, and more!

 

Pricing Information: $1,472 per week-long session (Monday — Saturday)

 

Perfect for: All Ages|3:1 Camper to Counselor ratio | Overnight | Winter, Spring & Summer Programs Available

 

Important to note: Campers must be fully vaccinated to attend this summer.

 

Image Credit: Easterseals SoCal

 

Easterseals CampWebsite|Big Bear, CA

Why we love it: Easterseals Camp at YMCA Camp Oakes is a week-long experience designed to give people with disabilities the same experience as any other campers. Campers will have the opportunity to participate in crafts, hayrides, talent shows, dances, swimming, canoeing, archery, hiking, concerts, storytelling, and a high and low ropes course. Campers will stay in dormitories or 3-sided cabins and parents or caregivers can rest easy knowing that a registered nurse is on duty 24-hours.

 

Pricing Information: Please contact the camp directly for pricing information.

 

Perfect for: Ages 14+|2:1 Camper to Counselor ratio | Overnight | After School & Summer Programs Available

 

Click here for a full list of the 10 best camps in Los Angeles! And if you don't know which one to pick, check out our guide on choosing the right summer camps for autistic children!

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