Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Making Camp Inclusive

When parents make the decision to send their child to camp, they have many options. They can opt for a day or sleep-away camp, outdoor adventure camp, sports camp, theater camp, religious camp and so on …  The possibilities multiply each year. If their child has a disability, they also have a choice to make when it comes to deciding whether to send their child to a “special” camp designed specifically for children with disabilities, an integrated camp that welcomes children with disabilities but groups them separately from their typically developing camp-mates, or an inclusive camp where campers of all abilities participate in all activities together.

In today’s blog post, we’ll “visit” Camp Chi, an inclusive overnight camp located in Lake Delton, Wisconsin. Camp Chi is affiliated with the JCC in Chicago, which also runs a variety of other camp programs.

For almost 20 years, Camp Chi has worked to integrate children with special needs into their camp program through its partnership with Keshet a nationally recognized provider of educational, recreational, vocational and social programs for individuals with disabilities. Yet until recently, there were limits to what they could provide.

In 2015, Camp Chi was selected as one of six camps to participate in the Ruderman/Alexander Inclusion Initiative. Thanks to the Inclusion Initiative, Camp Chi is now able to: “enroll more campers with disabilities, increase the length and variety of sessions offered, enhance staff training and focus more closely on social inclusion.”

Monday, May 16, 2016

Play Ball!

If it’s springtime it must be baseball season! For baseball-lovers young and old, a trip to the ballpark is one of the great joys of spring —especially when the home team wins! For young [and young at heart] baseball fans, playing the game can be equally joyful. According to the Aspen Institute’s Project Play, “participation in sports by children and adolescents is associated with a range of documented physical, emotional, social, educational and other benefits that can last into adulthood.”

But, all too often, youngsters with disabilities are left on the sidelines.

In recent years, a movement to make sports more inclusive has gained traction. Yet, despite good 
intentions, and modifications to the Americans With Disabilities Act in 2010, many recreational facilities, including ball fields, still don’t accommodate children with mobility challenges, visual impairment and other disabilities. Even when settings are completely accessible, children with disabilities may remain isolated because of the fears and misconceptions of typically developing peers. Fortunately, an organization called The Miracle League is changing that, one community at a time.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Making Summertime Special

For more than a century, North American summer camps have provided children and young adults with meaningful opportunities to immerse themselves in nature, develop life-long friendships, discover their strengths and talents, gain independence and engage in communal living.

According to the American Camp Association’s Case for Camp, “A quality camp experience provides our children with the opportunity to learn powerful lessons in community, character-building, skill development, and healthy living — a meaningful, engaged, and participatory environment.”

For children with special needs, who are all too often stuck on the sidelines, a summer camp experience can have an even more profound effect.  Today, there are so many different ways to take advantage of all that camp has to offer. No matter what your child’s disability, whether you choose a day camp, or sleep-away camp, an inclusive camp, where children with disabilities play alongside typically developing peers, a family camp, a religious camp or a specialty camp focusing on sports, arts, academics or computers, there is truly something for everyone.

But how can you tell if your child with special needs is prepared for a summer camping experience? How do you go about finding the appropriate setting? Will your child be safe?

We went directly to the source—The American Camp Association—to ask these questions. Here’s what we learned:

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Happy Mothers Day to the Caregivers Among Us!

Whether you’re a mother, a teacher or a therapist, much of your time is spent attending to the needs of others. Caregiving is always challenging, but when the child or children you care for have severe disabilities, your caregiving responsibilities are especially demanding.

Caregiving can take quite a toll on people who care for family members. 

According to statistics collected by the Caregiver Action Network:

·      More than 65 million people, 29% of the U.S. population, provide care for a chronically ill, disabled or aged family member or friend during any given year and spend an average of 20 hours per week providing care for their loved one.
·      Approximately 66% of family caregivers are women. More than 37% have children or grandchildren under 18 years old living with them.