As a kid, I basically attended every camp you can imagine– acting camp, 4H farm camp, Girl Scouts camp, Vacation Bible School, tennis and swim camp, volleyball summer clinic, horseback riding camp, and list goes on and on… My parents both worked full time, so when school let out for the summer, my parents looked for camps that would keep me active, engaged, and having fun. Every two weeks, I moved to a different specialty camp. I absolutely loved it! I got to explore so many interests, having a blast all summer and never getting bored.
Some camps piqued my interest. For example, I went to horseback riding camp year after year for five summers in a row. I still look back on my experience fondly, especially when I think about my favorite horse named Lucky. Acting camp was what first inspired my love for the arts. On the other hand, there were some camps that helped me determine which activities were not for me. (You should see my lack of interest in diving for a volleyball…) Summer camps helped me find myself. As humans, we are so often defined by what we “do,” how we choose to spend our days. We must help our young ones begin to explore all of what they can do with their time, what their options really are.
Too often, young people with disabilities are forced into the one camp that allows children with disabilities– and sometimes this camp is made up of only children with disabilities. Many recreation leagues even include this “disabilities camp” in their promotional literature as evidence of all of the many options they offer their campers. These recreation leagues must begin to realize the limits that that places on their campers with disabilities, holding them back from exploring interests they may want to pursue later down the road. In the short-term, these camps can help these children find friends with similar interests and facilitate a greater, more powerful, sense of community. In the long-term, they will help these campers in their search for purpose. I couldn’t think of a more noble cause than helping young people of all abilities find their true passion, the thing that drives them each and every day.
–Written by Elise Hopkins, KIT Blog Editor
If you lead a “specialty” camp that has not yet opened its doors to children with disabilities, please contact KIT– we can help! We will train your staff in supporting children with disabilities to ensure that your camp runs smoothly and happily.
Kids Included Together (KIT) is a non-profit located in San Diego, CA and Washington, DC. We help make the world a more inclusive place by providing live and online training to people who work with kids. We teach strategies, accommodations and best practices to include kids with and without disabilities in before & after school programs. Inclusive environments create stronger communities. Learn more about our work at www.KITonline.org.