Because I was only working 20 hours a week last summer, I was able to patch together part-time child care and the ASD Nest half-day camp in July into a workable model. This year, with my husband and I both in full-time positions, we are joining the “summer camp challenged” ranks.
The good news: Our local Y, where Brooks attends an integrated after-school program, has a day camp that we can “just” afford, and they’ve suggested we enroll him — they’d love to have him. The bad news: Historically, the camp has had no special education supports. After consulting with his ASD Nest teachers at school, we agreed Brooks would not thrive without such supports. What will happen if kids start popping their empty chips bags at lunch and Brooks starts to cry from the noise? He needs someone there with a special education background who knows how to comfort him and remove him from the situation, address his concerns about it happening again, and help him smooth it over with the other kids. The frustrating part is that these events will not happen often, but we all know that they will happen. And if they go untreated, they will fester and Brooks will change from a happy camper into an anxious one.
My husband and I requested a meeting with the camp director to address our concerns, but before we could argue for special education support, we were advised that it was already part of the plan. This year, the camp will be hiring a special education coordinator!
Of course, we will have to be vigilant about meeting with this new coordinator, making sure s/he understands Brooks and his history, and stays in regular contact throughout the camp session, but overall, we are ecstatic that Brooks will be spending the summer with neighborhood kids and counselors he already knows from the Y in the kind of integrated environment where he has thrived in the past.
If you think your child is a good candidate for this kind of “unofficial” integrated summer camp, consider challenging your neighborhood organization to provide the necessary supports. According to Hilda Alarcón at Resources for Children with Special Needs, if a camp that receives Title 1 funding denies your child with a disability reasonable accommodations, they can be fined over $50,000 for discrimination. Although you probably don’t want to lead with this information, it’s good to have in your back pocket.
How amazing that swimming and kickball and Capture the Flag will be part of Brooks’ summer this year after all. To quote the Beatles, “Here comes the sun.”