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The child/youth with ASD is integrated into a program with similar aged neuro-typical peers or into a general camp program
Questions to Ask:
What is the percentage of children with special needs makes up the camp population? True integration should be around 10% of the population.
Is my child integrated into a cabin/tent/group or are they just integrated into the general camp program?
What does this camp do specifically for a child with ASD?
How are the people working directly with my child trained? How old are they? (Ontario Camps Association standards recommend a minimum of 16 for a day camp staff member and 17 for a residential camp staff member)
How are transitions between programs managed?
Are visual reminders/PEC available or do we have to send them?
If you are looking for a calibre experience for your child with ASD, flags should go up if your child with ASD is getting lumped into program with a hodge-podge of other children with special needs. This may mean that your camper is in a general respite program and the specialized needs of a camper with ASD may not be acknowledged.
These camps offer activities/programs within an environment specifically for children with ASD. Examples of these programs are the day camps that Autism Ontario Chapters operate.
Ensure your camper tours the facility ahead of time and that you have some adjustment time during the tour. This will let you know areas of the facility which may be a concern.
If your camper is non-verbal or low verbal, send your camper with a small plastic photo album with photos of common items that he/she will use at camp (e.g. swim area, toilets, showers, change room, dining hall, lunch shelter, playground). The camper can use this to gesture or the staff can help with some hand over hand pointing to help at transitions. Some campers may do well if you get the actual photos from/at the camp ahead of time.
Create laminated charts with words and Velcro to help the camp staff with “first this, then this” instruction. The staff members can choose from the laminated words to help the camper with their schedules and transitions (e.g. first “change room” then “swim”). Some campers will comprehend a more complicated laminated page with multiple “first this, then this, then this, then this” instructions.
It’s hard to leave your child with a camp program sometimes, say your good-bye and then leave regardless of what’s going on (unless of course the camp requests that you stay). The camp should call you if your child’s behaviour is beyond their capacity. Try to enjoy your time while your child is at camp so your batteries are recharged for when they return home.
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