Approximately 10% of school age children are classified in need of specific services throughout the United States. In many school districts, 15% of children have “labels” of some sort. Therefore, camp leaders must be well trained in determining whether a classified or “labeled” child can be mainstreamed into a traditional camp and/or the changes that a camp must make to its ordinary standard of operation to help the camper succeed. The camp director needs to adhere to the camp’s mission statement and determine the impact of each child on the camp as a whole. This course will review planning techniques and best practices for camp leaders to help a learning disabled or other types of special needs child to succeed.


Sometimes, the camp director will have to recommend a special needs camp for a particular camper and family. Therefore, camp leaders must also be well versed in camps that specialize in particular types of conditions (e.g. Asperger’s Syndrome, Attention Deficit Disorder, Autism) to be able to help all families and children.


If the camp director chooses to accept a special needs camper that will require additional personnel and attention, an Individualized Camping Plan (ICP) should be written. It is strongly recommended that a school psychologist or licensed social worker be hired to supervise the writing and implementation of the ICP.


This course will address the many issues of children with special needs and their experiences in camp. The course starts with an overview of all campers today including social trends, parent interaction, developmental characteristics, and some general age characteristics. The course continues with the role of the director in creating an overall plan for working with these differentiated needs of all campers whether these campers are considered to have special needs or not.


The course continues with an investigation of the types of special needs conditions and then explores the role that that the law plays in working with special needs campers. The next module addresses the many special needs camps that are currently available. If a special needs camp is not recommended, the following module explores a good example of the role that a traditional camp can play in creating an environment to help campers with a particular disorder: nature deficit disorder and its possible ramifications. Next, the course analyzes the intake process that camp leaders should use when considering whether or not to accept a special needs camper for a traditional camp. Finally, the course concludes with a study of working with parents of special needs campers and offers an opportunity to create a framework for dealing with these parents.