Family vacations can incorporate supervised overnight camp programs specially designed to be fun for kids with physical and/or mental challenges.
With so many camps to choose from, it can be difficult to find the one that’s right for your child’s individual needs. Below is a list of special needs residence camps in Illinois, Colorado, Michigan, Texas and in Canada. Each provides diverse programs that cater to the needs of your children, offering them a home away from home amid the fun of summer camp.
U.S. Camps for Children with Special Needs
233 South Wacker Drive, Suite 2400
Chicago, Illinois 60606
With 140 locations throughout the U.S., Easter Seals camps are a great option for many families. They provide educational and recreational activities and programs for kids and adults. From sports and fitness, to social gatherings and community field trips, Easter Seals brings those suffering from autism and other disabilities together. Activities at camp include a campfire sing-along, boating, swimming, arts and crafts, and ghost stories, providing a fully-accessible camp for those with physical disabilities. They also have a program, Operation Purple, in which they help veterans and their families adapt to newfound disabilities, and they host an event called Operation Adventure at Lake Martin, providing a therapeutic sports program for veterans.
P.O. Box 27086
San Antonio, Texas 78227
Celebrating 30 years, CAMP (Children’s Association for Maximum Potential) offers programs for adults and children, with camps for children with disabilities and their siblings without disabilities to share in experiences together. Right along the Guadalupe River in Center Point, Texas, CAMP offers weeklong camping sessions every year from May through August. They offer specialized camps for varying degrees of disability, such as medical, general, autism, adult, and blended sessions. Programs at CAMP incorporate educational, recreational, and respite services to give parents some relief, creating a well-balanced, full schedule for all campers.
The Learning Camp
P.O. Box 1146
Vail, Colorado 81658
Founded by a mother and father seeking for a camp to send their son, who suffered from ADD and dyslexia, the Learning Camp in Colorado is a true labor of love. The camp provides daily academic programs so kids don’t lose track of their academic progress and they incorporate fun camp activities that improve self-confidence and build self-esteem. The academic programs take place in the morning, and the afternoons and evenings are consumed by traditional, fun camp activities. The academic program organizes children by age, and focuses on the fundamentals of learning for a few hours each day, removing the emphasis on tests and homework, and then the kids go off to enjoy the adventurous offerings the camp has. The camp provides river rafting, martial arts, swimming, fishing, rock climbing, and more. The Learning Camp is strictly for children with learning disabilities, but the administration is willing and able to offer advice on what camps are best to send your kids to who have behavioral and/or other disabilities.
Camp Grace Bentley
This camp is for children with physical and mental disabilities between the ages of 7-18. The camp features 11 cabins along the shores of Lake Huron, which include air-conditioning and heating units in each cabin. The site also boasts a dining hall and a recreation hall, where kids can participate in plays, skits, and other indoor games. They also have a lounge for movie nights and activities on rainy days to keep the campers entertained inside. Theme nights, karaoke, dances, and team sports are just some of the fun activities offered at camp, and sitting upon Lake Huron they also offer all of the traditional activities you would expect from a summer camp including swimming and other beach adventures. They have a fully trained staff and a full-time medical professional available at all times, and in addition the camp is just a short drive to the Port Huron Hospital.
Canadian Camps for Children with Special Needs
Zajac Ranch for Children
15600 Florence Lake Road
Mission, BC V4S 1C4 Canada
The Zajac Ranch in British Columbia, Canada, hosts children with serious and chronic illnesses or disabilities, offering them the chance to have their own summer camp adventure. Everything you would expect from a summer camp you will find at the Zajac Ranch, from canoeing and ropes courses, to archery and horseback riding, your kids will all find something to do. They offer a Therapeutic Riding Program, to help kids improve their coordination and balance, strengthen muscles, build up self-esteem, and interact with others. Camp facilities include an amphitheater, dining hall, dormitories and teepees for a special experience, which sleep 10 people.
Ontario P0G1C0 Canada
This eastern Canada camp does a great job of mixing kids with and without special needs, educating kids on acceptance at an early age. With campers ranging in ages from 6 to18-years-old, Camp Kodiak has a wide range of activities available such as martial arts, kayaking, horseback riding, swimming, sailing, rocketry, and so much more. They also incorporate an academic program that all campers take part in for one hour each morning, right after breakfast. This academic program has two options available: option 1 involves small group and individual tutoring and the program teachings are decided upon in conjunction with the camper’s school. Older campers are even eligible to earn credit for their learning programs. Option 2 is more of a general overview, for small groups and individuals learning about a variety of subjects. Another great facet of this camp is that they have a Leader-In-Training program for older campers who are interested in becoming counselors.
115 Howden Road
Ontario M1R 3C7 Canada
For over 15 years, Camp Kirk has been welcoming kids with learning disabilities, ADD, and Autistic Spectrum disorders in the Greater Toronto region and beyond. This camp caters to each individual child, designing an experience that fits their level of understanding and pace of growth. They offer activities including archery, swimming, ropes courses, drama, and arts and crafts. The primary goal of Camp Kirk is to help understand the different disabilities that the campers are suffering from, and to make them feel safe in a recreational environment, instilling in them a sense of self-esteem so they can return to their everyday life with confidence.
For more information on these camps and other summer camps check out My Summer Camps, which outlines each camp and organizes them by your child’s individual needs whether they are physical or mental, and include reviews from parents and children.
This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question, and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.