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Summer Activities for Special Needs Kids

Berkeley Parents Network > Reviews > Summer Camps & School Breaks > Summer Activities for Special Needs Kids


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Day camps for special need children

July 2011

I am looking for a day camp for the month of August for my developmentally delayed 8 year old child.


The Family Resource Network of Alameda County publishes a list of recreational activities (including residential and day camps/programs) for special needs children. You can access the list by going to the website: http://www.frnoakland.org/pages/main.php?pageid=35&pagecategory=5 and downloading the 'Summer Recreation List' (updated 4/27/11). Anne

Camp for 6 year old with learning disabilities

March 2011

Hello, my 6 year old daughter was just diagnosed with dyslexia and and a language processing disorder. We are trying to find a summer camp for her that would focus on teaching learning skills for kids like her. We are pretty stumped and are looking for any suggestions in the East Bay. We looked into Quest, but they are a camp focused on social interaction, which does not seem to be too much of a problem for her yet. Any help would be much appreciated! lost!


The Raskob School in Oakland has a summer program. I don't know if they take kids as young as six, but you should give them a call. Ann

Does 6-year-old need an aide for summer camp?

March 2010

My son 6 year old has attended various YMCA camps for summer and spring & winter break camps. He did okay, but he could have done better (he has social skills problems as well as having sensory processing dysfunction) and so there were some problems. This year as part of his IEP he has an aide in the classroom. I've spoken to one YMCA which said that if he has an aide in school, he would need an aide at camp too. This will mean paying the salary of a person which might be very expensive.(He is not a client of the Regional Center which I believe has paid for aides.) Does anyone have experience with aides at camps,especially how you found them and what you paid them? Second, has anyone whose child has had an aide at camp tried sharing the aide with another camper? Any and all creative solutions would be welcomed. Mom looking for best camp experience for child.


Hi, I am having the same issues this year with camp. My son uses a wheelchair and needs extra support and I dread hiring an aide. I don't have answers for you but several things I have found as alternatives upon brainstorming.

1. The City of Berkeley has an Inclusion Day Camp at James Kinney Park that is fully supported and very inexpensive.

2. The Berkeley YMCA is trying out a Special Needs Camp this year (1 week only but fully supported aide-wise).

3. Family Resource Network is hosting a Special Needs Rec Fair in anticipation of camp season April 10th 11-3PM in the Bananas parking lot Claremont Ave in Oakland.

4. As far as aides are concerned, I would not expect to pay the same as a union permanent hire position in a school district. Try looking for aides in training for OT, PT, Special Ed, Home Health Aide or Nursing certificates, depending on how much support your son needs. It may be just the kind of hands-on experience their resume needs, making pay less of an issue. If your son really just needs extra social support getting involved, how about a really cool Cal student who might draw other kids in? Just some thoughts, hope it helps (and really hoping you get a lot of responses b/c I will read them all!). Rebecca


Well, first of all, why is he not a client of the Regional Center? If he has an IEP he will most likely qualify for RCEB services, and they will pay for ''support in a community setting,'' or at least put some money towards helping you pay for an aide, as well as paying you ''respite.'' It's also possible that your school district could help with the cost, depending on which district you're in.

I'm curious, the YMCA you spoke with said he would need an aide because he has one in the classroom, but do YOU think he needs an aide or is that just their policy? What kinds of problems did he have without one?

To answer your question, though, my son has had an aide at various summer camps throughout Berkeley for the past 6 years. I've been very lucky to have found wonderful people on Craigslist; last year I put out an ad and got 100 resumes (!!) I've paid them varying rates depending on their experience, but never less than $18/hour. I have not shared an aide with another child, at least not one that has worked for me (my son shares his classroom aide with another child).

Hope this is helpful. Feel free to contact me directly if you have any questions. Jill


Camp that will accept special-needs 8 year old

Feb 2010

I am looking for summer programs that are willing to accept my special-needs 8 year old. I can provide a full time aide for him, so he shouldn't be too much of a burden on the staff. My son has PDD-NOS, low muscle tone, and is academically delayed. Although he is 8 years old, in many ways he is more like a 5 or 6 year old. (Unfortunately he is also a gigantic 8 year old, so he looks like he is 9 or 10). He loves cars, trains, and computers, but I would actually prefer a camp that involves other thing - maybe animals? His fine motor skills are truly terrible, at age 8 he can barely write his name, so an art camp would probably be frustrating and demoralizing for him.

Any ideas? He is hurt and saddened that he can't go to the academic camp that his gifted sister and best friend both attend, I would really love to find something that he could do!


I am not sure if it would work for your situation, but my son who has multiple physical disabilites, but no developmental delays, has been welcomed and supported at the UC Berkeley Blue Camps. He usually does the sports and arts track so he gets a break from all the physical stuff over the course of the day.

For the past three years they have accomodated his needs and been very supportive (especially when all the kids kept asking him about his leg braces). I was very nervous to call and ask them to accomodate him because I had been told no by other private camps (made my son sad because he wanted to go to a acting/storytelling camp). The staff at Cal has been amazing and my son loves going there. Sarah


Hi, I have a son with Asperger Syndrome who has attended Lawrence Hall of Science camps and Sarah's Science with an aide. My son didn't like Sarah's Science all that much but they were happy to have him with his aide and it worked just fine. The Lawrence Hall of Science has been very understanding and worked well with the aide and my son. Now that he has attended a few camps there he has even done some without the aide. laura

Academic camp for LD 7-year-old?

June 2007

Does anyone know of an Oakland-area academic summer camp that would be appropriate for a first grader with learning differences? I checked into Raskob, but it is SO expensive, and Quest Camp is very far away (and not academic at all). Our son also has some attention issues that regular academic camps are not equipped to handle. Montclair mom


I am sending my son to a new camp this summer that might be what you are looking for. It's called Applewood and it's a language arts and social skills camp and they accept kids with learning differences - my son has problems with visual memory and working memory so reading is a big struggle. There is a description in the BPN schools and camps newsletter. You can find out more about the camp at www.applewoodday.org or by calling 415-378-7815. The people running the camp are 2 very experienced teachers. I hope this helps. Laura

East Bay camp for 7-year-old with LD and social skills defect

March 2006

I am looking for a one/two week summer camp or program for my 7 year old son. He has been diagnosed with non-verbal learning disabilities, primarily social skills deficit. He as ADHD as well. If you know of or have experience with any East Bay social skills or NLD programs, your input would be valued. Previous posts mentioned the UC Berkeley program at Strawberry Canyon, but this camp is for 3rd graders and older. Anne


My son, who is now 11, attended Quest Therapeutic Services summer day camp last year, and has continued in their once- weekly afterschool program this year. He'll attend again this summer.

The summer camp is in Alamo, which is a drag for working parents this side of the tunnel, but I have to say it was absolutely worth all of the driving and schedule juggling. We have since found a family to carpool with (families come from all over the Bay Area), and the afterschool program fortunately has an Oakland site.

They require a minimum 3 week attendance, which is what we did. It's quite expensive, and no financial aid (at least as of last year), and the only way I was able to do it was with significant help from my parents. But again, if it's at all possible, it's worth every penny. My son absolutely blossomed during his time there; the transformation was quite striking. I'm happy to answer any questions you may have about the camp. My son also has social skills deficits, and suffers from depression and some ADHD symptoms. There are children there with a very wide range of issues/disabilities. Emily


My hand is waving in the air and I'm shouting pick me, pick me, I know the answer to this one!! The very best and perfect place for him to go is Quest Camp. They are absolute specialists in ADHD and NLD and social stuff. Hang the cost and the commute - what he will learn will give him such a solid foundation for the next school year too. And he will have a blast too. Plus you probably will be able to car pool. Go to www.questcamps.com to check it out. Anon

Camp for 10-y-o with depression with psychotic features

April 2006

This will be our first summer since our ten-year-old daughter's diagnosis of clinical depression with psychotic features. She is beginning to see some relief from symptoms and is medication- compliant and she gets to all of her therapy appointments. However, she hasn't been able to be at school for more than an hour or so--stress seems to bring on episodes.

Generally our daughter has attended various day camps during the summer break. I am a working mom and my income is crucial to our family's ability to pay for housing. This year I am becoming anxious about whether I will be able to work, due to our daughter's special mental health needs. For example, I just looked into one of the camp programs publicized in BPN, and it looks iffy: ''Requirement to Disclose Special Needs Whether Professionally Diagnosed or Not: Prior to or at time of registration, parents/wards are responsible for notifying us of a special need, whether officially diagnosed or not (ie. attention or communication disorders or if school teachers have spoken to you with concerns about your child's consistent disruptive behavior in a group setting). These disclosures do not necessarily preclude your child's participation in camp. Dismissal from Camp: There are rare times when we must dismiss a child due to behavioral problems that preclude a child from participating safely or effectively in a group. If a camper is dismissed for aforementioned reasons, there will be no refund for the unused, pre-registered days.''

I can't really risk our family's meager earnings on a camp that doesn't have the resources to deal with my child as she is now. Does anyone have a recommendation? anonymous, obviously


As the director of a summer camp, I strongly recommend that you contact the camp directly and speak with the directors before making a decision. The disclosure statement seems standard. One of the most challenging aspects of taking care of children at camp is when the family is not completely open about their child's situation. We can handle many needs if we know about them and have time to prepare. What is problematic is when parents do not disclose something to the camp, whatever the reason. We truly want everyone to have a successful, fun, and safe time at camp as, I'm sure does the camp you're looking at. Talk with them and be open so you can find a place that will really work for your daughter. Kelly
There is a camp that I am affiliated with...it's called Camp New Hope. It's a 2 night, sleep-over camp for kids diagnosed with bipolar disorder. You can get more info at www.campnewhope.net. Although you child's diagnosis is different, they may be able to help you find the right place for you and your child. Just know that you are not alone; there are many parents with kids who have similar issues. You need a camp that will be on top of the medications, possible behaviors, needs of your child, etc. I recommend starting with Camp New Hope. Kaye Anderson, LCSW
Oh, do I feel you. My son was originally diagnosed at age 7 with Depression w/ Psychotic Features. Now, at age 10, they call it Bipolar even thou the symptoms haven't changed. I think it depends on which meds work as to how they diagnose. Unfortunately, after 3 years of med changes, he can still not function socially, academically, emotionally, independently. The anxiety and stress he experiences at school is incredible. He takes 5 mood stabilizers right now and still falls apart daily.

I am writing to tell you that your child has rights under the disability act regarding recreation programs. My son has a full time 1-on-1 aide at municipal camps/classes. They have to make their programs available to disabled kids. He also has a 1-on-1 at school. With each new school, they tell me no. I then put in writing that my child is a threat to himself and others. That does the trick - they can't risk it. Your neighborhood school is responsible for educating your child in the least restrictive environment which, for our kids, usually means a ft 1-on-1. If your child is only making it for one hour a day, her educational needs are not being met. Don't take this on by yourself - the school has responsibilities - write a letter to your school requesting an Individual Education Plan. Mental illness is a disability and a very lonely one for the parents. I'm sure you know what I mean.


Camp for Bipolar 7-yr.-old

May 2004

Does anyone know of a summer day-camp program that can accommodate a bipolar child? There are many great days camps in the East Bay for non-bipolar/non-mood disorder children, but so far none that I have tried has had experienced enough counselors to handle my child's mood swings. My child desperately wants to have a successful social experience in a camp setting and not always be left out/thrown out of such opportunities. I should footnote that my means are limited. Thanks. WorkingMom


Have you looked at Quest Therapeutic Camp? They also have an after school program at Hillcrest in Oakland. Their phone # is 925-743-1370. They are fantastic.
The Family Resource Network published a list of camps for children with special needs. Their number is 510-547-7322. Also, there was a camp at the recent Camp Fair at the Scottish Rite Center in Oakland that was specifically for your type of situation and I can't remember the name. You might contact the group that put that on (Association of University Women?). Sorry I can't remember more specifics. Joan

For disabled kids

Also see Childcare Programs for Disabled Kids
Most recreation programs should be designed to be suitable for children
with as well as without disabilities, IMHO.  To this end, I convinced the
City of Santa Cruz to provide aides, interpreters, or equipment -- anything
that's needed to make it possible for anyone to participate in any
recreation program they sponsor.  (This was pre-ADA.) Santa Cruz went on to
make many wonderful improvements in recreation programs and facilities.
I've just moved to Berkeley, and have been shocked how backwards things are
here, considering the town's reputation.

Anyway, I wanted to thank you for bringing up this issue in this forum. I'm
amazed that none of the brochures I've seen for programs indicate their
accessibility.

One of my children has CP, also, and is 15. How old is your son? Does he
attend school?  Have you had any trouble finding childcare?

Susan 


July 1996

Re: Summer Programs for Disabled Kids

BANANAS (510 658-7101) and Family Resource Network have a handout of summer programs that welcome disabled kids. Some are just for kids with disabilities while some are integrated programs. My daughter, who is blind, enjoyed the Berkely-Albany YMCA summer program. I don't know where you live, but there also is a summer program just for kids with disabilities sponsored by the Walnut Creek Specialized Recreation division of their Parks and Rec Department- kids come from all over the bay area. My daughter (we live in Oakland) will be going for the first time next week. It's hours are 9-3:30 (no extended care).
See also: YMCA Programs Dianne


March 1996

In response to Susan's request for summer programs for teens, I suggest she contact BANANAS in Oakland (510) 658-7101. Although they are mainly a child referral/childcare training organization, they have a great deal of information, flyers,etc on summer programs in the Bay Area. You should just go in and browse their info. Also, I have a daughter with a disability like Susan's, and BANANAS has a wonderful program to assist parents of kids with disabilities find childcare/summer programs and to provide information and assistance to the childcare/summer program itself to facilitate integrating your child into the program.


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