Summer Camps for Children with Disabilities

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Guest writer Ginger Lambert shares her experiences with sending her daughter Avery (17yo) to various camps in the area.

Being a parent to a child with an extra chromosome means having to carefully plan out the summer break for your child. You should plan to start registering for summer camps in January or February. August is a great time to look into weekend, spring break, and holiday camps. Some of the camps have a very long application process, and you might need a doctor to fill out some paperwork, so this cannot be done at the last minute. Plan ahead, but do not let the long application process deter you from sending your child to make some summer memories. Give it a shot, our children are brave and resilient!

As the youngest of three siblings, Avery has always wanted to do everything her older sister and brother were doing, including activities with friends instead of parents and sleeping away from home. Her first camp experience was in elementary school during spring break at Camp CAMP. It was a good first choice for us since it was only a 3-night camp – long enough to settle in, but not too long. She was very, VERY excited and not nervous at all. When we went to pick her up from camp, she wasn’t ready to come back home! My husband, James, and I were a little nervous. One of the hardest things is that most of the camps she has attended do not post photos online during the camp sessions. Even now, many years later, we are comfortable with her being at camps and know she’s having a great time, but it’s still weird not to know what she’s doing at any given time during the week. I think when a kid requires an outsized amount of attention at home, whether that’s due to personality or medical needs when they are gone at camp their absence feels oversized, too. Somehow the house seems SO quiet when only one person is missing, especially if it’s the loudest one!

One of the best tools for success at any camp has been writing an “all about Avery” guide and giving it to the assigned counselor. I try to include anything that will help both Avery and the counselor not get frustrated. Some items I include are:

  • Her bedtime routine.
  • What she needs help with (showering, dressing).
  • Tips for helping her move from a favorite activity to a not-favorite activity. First/then still works great, even after all these years. “First we’re going to do an art project, then later we get to go swimming.” It doesn’t even have to be the very next activity.
  • How to get her to walk long distances in heat, such as distracting her with upbeat discussion and/or singing.
  • The music she likes.
  • Stuff she talks about frequently that they might not understand.
young girl with Down syndrome smiling and laying down on the bottom bunk
young girl with Down syndrome with her camp counselor

Sleepaway Camps:

Camp CAMP in Centerpoint just outside of Comfort. One-week sessions for various ages and needs. Well-trained teenage/college staff who return year after year. Facilities and staff are well-equipped to handle a variety of needs. Cabins are large and have accessible restrooms located inside each cabin.

Texas Lions Camp in Kerrville. One week per summer is designated as Down syndrome week for campers ages 12-16. It’s a bit of a process to get signed up (involves getting a recommendation from a member). Cabins are large and have accessible restrooms located inside each cabin. It’s designed to accommodate campers with physical disabilities, but I’m not sure of the behavior range they accept. Counselors are all college kids from Australia/New Zealand.

Deer Creek Camp in Medina. A Christian summer camp that designates one week of the summer as Friends Week (now called Brave Adaptive Camp). Run by a large extended family and dedicated locals. Cabins are smaller traditional cabins with community restrooms located along a path. Faith-based programming. Many familiar San Antonio faces among the campers.

Beloved and Beyond. A Christian camp organization that has held week-long sessions at Morgan’s Wonderland Camp the past two years. They have now purchased their own campus in Rosebud, and all camps will be held there from this summer forward.

Down Home Ranch Camp in Elgin. Week-long summer sessions for adults with one week designated for teens.

Morgan’s Wonderland Camp: It’s an awesome facility right here in our city! There are family weekends where the whole family can enjoy camp or people with special needs can attend camp through one of the partner camps.

Day Camps:

Special Reach Summer Enrichment Program:

J-Camp: At the Barshop Jewish Community Center. From weekly to four-week sessions.

Community Bible Church Vacation Bible School: Children who have finished Kinder-5th grade. CBC VBS website.

Ginger Lambert

Ginger graduated from Texas A&M and worked in Dallas before eventually moving back to her hometown of San Antonio with her husband James to raise a family. Ginger is a CPA who currently works as the Human Resources and Payroll Coordinator at Pilgrim Mortgage. She spends her free time visiting her oldest daughter Rachel in NYC, giving advice to her recent college grad John, and running her youngest Avery (who has Down syndrome) to ALL the activities of a spirited high school senior. Ginger also loves to read, scrapbook, and socialize with friends.
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