How to Choose a Summer Camp?

By Heidi Cooley-Cook


Summer break is quickly approaching.  Some children are waiting anxiously for the time when they can play outside all day, wake up late, or take a summer vacation. Others are anxious just thinking about leaving school, changing teachers, not having the same routine, and wondering what the summer will hold.

Many parents are savoring these last few days of school and scrambling to find appropriate activities and settings for their child during the break.   Finding a suitable summer camp for a child with special needs including autism can be a daunting task.  Below you will find a few questions to keep in mind when researching summer camps for your child.  You’ll also find the list of summer camps compiled by Diane Cowne, a KATC Board Member.


Here are a few questions to ask yourself, your child, and the camp staff:



What are my expectations for the summer camp my child attends - academic, social, activities, etc. or a combination?

What does my child want to get out of the camp?  Are there specific activities that he/she really wants to do?  Are there certain activities that would be ‘deal breakers’?

Will there be same age peers present to encourage socialization?

Will my child know someone (adult or child) present at the camp?



Where is the camp located? Is it a day or overnight camp?

How will my child get to and from camp each day?

If the camp is half day do they offer aftercare so that it better fits with my work schedule?

Are there other families you know who will be sending their child to the same camp?  If so, is carpooling an option?

How much is the camp - are there scholarships available to offset the cost?



Does the camp have the resources to meet the needs of my child?

If I feel that my child needs additional support (beyond what is available from the camp) - would the camp allow someone to attend the camp with my child (parent, caregiver, interventionist)?

Is the camp comfortable in using my child’s communication system on a consistent basis?

Will my child be paired with the same staff each day he/she attends camp?

If you are using a behavior plan at home, school, and/or community - will the camp also implement it?

What type of experience does the staff have with individuals with special needs or autism?


Hopefully you will find the perfect fit for your child where they will learn new skills, make new friends, try new things, and have an all around great time!



Heidi Cooley-Cook is a Family Field Training Coordinator for the KY Autism Training Center where she provides direct training and technical assistance to families.

KY Autism Training Center Spring 2013 Newsletter May 2013