Choosing the right summer camps for autistic children

Choosing the right summer camps for autistic children

Updated: August 18, 2022 · 5 Minute Read

Beaming Health

Written by:

Beaming Health

Highlights

  • Camp programs can last a few days to a few weeks, be for autistic only or a mixture of neurotypical and neurodivergent kids, and can include overnight options.
  • Some camps offer 1:1 support while others have a higher camper-to-counselor ratio.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask tons of questions —a great camp will welcome them!
  • Some camps may be free, while others can cost upwards of $1,500.
  • Possibly the greatest benefit of summer camp for your child is the independence they gain.

Enrolling your child in a summer camp is a great option to boost their long-term happiness, explore their interests, and develop their skills. There are many autism and neurodivergent-friendly camps that promote positivity and confidence.

 

What do autism-friendly camps look like?

Autism-friendly camps come in all shapes and sizes, making it easier for you to find the one that best suits your needs. An autism-friendly camp may come in the form of a day camp, meaning you drop your child off in the morning and pick them up later that afternoon, or as an overnight camp. The camp programs can range in length from a few days to a few weeks. The campers that attend autism-friendly camps may be autistic only or a mixture of neurotypical and neurodivergent kids. When it comes to support for your child, some camps offer 1:1 support while others have a higher camper-to-counselor ratio. 

 

How do I know which camp is the right fit for my child?

When choosing the perfect camp for your child there are several things you should keep in mind:

 

Interests: What does your child like to do? A sports camp probably wouldn’t be a good fit for your little bookworm. Finding the right summer camp that sparks your child’s excitement will aid in transitioning to and from camp, while also ensuring they enjoy their experience.

 

Professional Support: How much support does your child need? A traveling camp may not be best for your child who tends to elope. Some camps offer 1:1 support for your child, while others may have a higher camper-to-counselor ratio. When looking for a camp, pay close attention to those ratios to ensure there is adequate support for your child’s unique needs.

 

Specializations: Does the camp specialize in a specific area? If your child is nonverbal and the camp has excellent experience working with nonverbal children, it may be the perfect fit!

 

Responsiveness and Accommodations: Pay special attention to camps that meet with you one-on-one either by phone, video chat, or in person, to mark out a personalized support plan for your child. You can relax knowing they’re on top of things and making sure your child is properly supported. Don’t be afraid to ask tons of questions —a great camp will welcome them!

 

Location and Commitment: Not many people like a long commute. You know your child’s comfort level better than anyone else, so you’ll know what’s best for them, whether it’s a half-day camp, a full day, or an overnight experience.

 

Are camps affordable?

Prices will vary from camp to camp. Some camps may be free, while others can cost upwards of $1,500+. Things such as the structure, overnight versus day camps, and the length of camp, a couple of days versus a couple of weeks, can also influence the price. The geographic area of a camp may influence the price. For example, camps in a large metro area like Los Angeles or Chicago may be more expensive than camps located in smaller suburbs. Additionally, programs hosted by groups like your local The Autism Society or YMCA locations tend to be more affordable than those hosted by private organizations – but again, there is a lot of variety in pricing. 

 

Many camps offer “camperships”, which are scholarships for camp, or financial aid to assist you with paying for camp. Some camps may supply your child’s lunch or snacks, while others may require you to supply their food, which is also something to factor in when considering the expense of camp. 

 

What are the benefits of summer camp?

Here are just a few of the benefits of summer camp for autistic children: 

 

Fostering Social Skills: Summer camp is an excellent opportunity for your child to learn about different social scenarios they may face as they grow up and provide them first-hand experience in how to approach those situations in a safe and supportive environment.

 

Maintaining Mental Stimulation: With school out during the summer months, a child with autism may be missing out on many of the core structures inherently provided by the classroom and their classmates. No matter what sort of camp you choose or your child’s unique needs and interests, summer camp is a great way to keep your child mentally stimulated and challenged. 

 

Friendship: Depending on the camp size, campers are often divided into smaller groups defined by age, interests, gender, and/or needs. These groups not only give your child the opportunity to closely identify with a group that they belong to but provide them an opportunity to learn how to make friends.

 

Independence and Confidence: Possibly the greatest benefit of summer camp for your child is the independence they gain. While the counselors are there for support and guidance, kids will have their own responsibilities and choices to make while at camp. Your child will be doing activities independently and actively learning what they like and don’t like. Having these sorts of experiences can boost a child’s self-confidence and nurture your child’s natural curiosity about the world. 

 

Sign me up! How do I find the best autism camps near me?

Some areas have more camp options than others. The Bay Area alone has over 200 camps to choose from! You can find the best camps near you with our complete directory. 


We’ve also worked with families and camp insiders to put together an even more intensive list of the above requirements: best camps in SF, best camps in LA, best camps in OC, best camps in San Diego, best camps in Chicago, and best camps in Denver for autistic children! Cheers to a great summer!

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