Preparing for Summer Camp: Disabilities and Special Needs

campsiteSummertime means summer camp for most Scouts. Every Scout wants to take part and, more importantly, have fun. This takes preparation, especially for Scouts with special needs.

The unit leader should take some time to think about each Scout as an individual and how each will react to summer camp routine. This is especially true of new Scouts who have not attended camp before. Identify roadblocks: features of camp life that prevent the Scout from participating or feeling comfortable. Make sure that one or more unit leaders watch for those roadblocks and are ready to help bring the challenge within reach of the Scout’s abilities.

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When Food Becomes a Special Need

Campfire cookingWe’ve all encountered Scouts who are picky eaters because the menu is different from home and food is cooked in unfamiliar ways.  Most food aversions work themselves out because most kids will not willingly starve themselves. That is not always the case, and Scout leaders need to be receptive and address special cases. One special issue with food is sensory overload.  There are neurobiological disorders, including autism, where “ordinary” sensory input overwhelms the mind. Eating is a complex sensory experience because food has taste, smell, texture, and appearance.  Some Scouts have sensory issues that are so intense that they refuse to eat many types of foods, no matter how much you  encourage or reason with them. Parents in these situations tend to be reluctant  to ask for accommodations for their child.

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Key Ingredients to Great Summer Camp

Reprinted from the Spring 2017 Abilities Digest

Contributed by a camp staff alum

Tent among the treesCommunication and teamwork are the key ingredients to a great summer camp experience for Scouts with special needs.

It’s been 30 years since I last worked on summer camp staff, but some of the most vivid memories I have are working with the Scouts and leaders of Troop 191 from the Widener Memorial School in Philadelphia. This troop of amazing men with various disabilities; both young and old, joined us for our first week of camp each season and it was as meaningful an experience for the staff as it was for the campers.

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