Summer Camp Survival Tips for Children With Autism

Sending your child to camp for the first time can be an overwhelming experience for a Mama. Letting go and allowing them to be independent and away from home, even at a day camp, can be terrifying. Even attending VBS at your church might be a big step!  When your child has autism, there’s another layer added. Here are a few tips to help your child adapt to a camp setting this summer:

  1. Introduce camp to your child: Visit ahead of time, let them get the lay of the land, and allow them to explore and ask questions. If possible get a copy of the camp schedule ahead of time to share with your child. If they know when breaks are coming, it might help them tolerate the day. Go over the “camp rules” to be sure they understand what is expected.
  2. Introduce your child to the camp: Prepare a letter to the camp staff, explaining your child’s idiosyncrasies.  Let them know about your child’s food preferences, their fears, what gets them excited, and how to calm them in a meltdown. Most camp staffers are there because they love kids, and they can love yours too if they know how to handle what might be coming. Include several extra copies of the letter to give out to anyone who might be working with your child.
  3. Pack a survival bag: Extra clothes or a towel in case they get wet, a comfort object from home, even a special snack could help them get through the camp day. Think about what makes your child feel at ease, and send that thing in their bag. Don’t forget a special note from you to let them know how proud you are of this big step. Include a verse like “Be strong and courageous” from Deuteronomy 31:6 to remind your child that they are not alone.

Maybe camp is beyond the scope of what your child can do this summer. No problem! Just be sure to find engaging activities that stimulate their minds AND keep them physically active. A picnic, some new paints and canvas, or a baby pool filled with water in your yard can provide hours of summer fun in the safety of your own backyard.

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