Summer is my favorite season of the year. The warmth, the beach, long sunny days and campfires at night. I just love it all. Especially as a woman who has grown up in the fickle New England weather my entire life.
However, amidst the time of the year which brings me so much joy; there is also a LOT of turmoil. See, summer vacation brings a new set of challenges my family. My son needs an extended year program for school to prevent regression in his academics. The school schedule changes and that makes me have to risk losing appointment slots that I waited to have preference on. We also have to think about an entirely different social group, new expectations and many other things. Then there is finding an appropriate summer camp and/or summer activities and figuring out if there is funding to support paying and also access to programs.
The time that I typically start looking for summer programming for my son is October. Yes... OCTOBER! The slots for these camps are difficult to find and often require an interview process. Also, we have been through a number of places that were not a good fit for us.
Here are some tips for finding great summer camps or programs for your child and family:
1- Start early! The early bird gets the worm and this is very true when it comes to summer camps and programs. Many programs begin enrollment in January.
2- Make time to tour the program. Not every place will be a good fit for your family. Taking a tour early gives you opportunity to build relationships and not feel rushed into a decision.
3- Make a list of what your looking for and questions you have. As families, we typically know what environments are better than others for our kids. Having a list of talking points or questions can help to guide you when in a new environment. Some examples are: what is the staff ratio, what are the therapeutic interventions, is there transportation available, what are the hours and what are the costs.
4- Figuring out the figures. Some families have agencies to fund activities and others are able to pay for camps themselves. Regardless of where you are on the spectrum, figuring out how much programs are and when payments are due is important. Some programs will require a deposit to hold a slot, while others may not. Some programs may offer scholarships of a sliding scale. Additionally there may be funds available through other agencies, or state agencies such as the Department of Mental Health or the Department of Children and Families. If you are not receiving services from a funded, that may mean you must apply through that agency as well. The timeline for these registrations can vary in length.
5- Have honest conversations about your child. It can be very difficult to talk about some of the needs or behaviors that your child may display. However, being open can allow everyone to make decisions that are a set up for success. If a program cannot meet the needs of your child, it is better to know than find out the hard way. Often times if a camp cannot meet your child’s needs, they would be able to recommend a camp that can.
Summer is a great time for families and their children. It is often a tome to make memories that last a lifetime. And with enough thought and timing, your summer can be great too.
Need more tips? Join our Summer Success forum happening now! Click here to join the discussion.
Kristi Glenn is Co-Founder of Pinnacle Partnerships and a professional with lived experience of raising her own child with emotional health needs. She has worked in government, community, and direct service to support family driven care and advocate for family voice at the highest levels.