One of the most common questions that I get asked from new camp families is, “Can parents come too?”
While sometimes this is a joke related to how beautiful the facility is and how much fun all of the activities seem to be, a lot of the time this comes from parents who are anxious about sending their campers away for the first time.
This makes perfect sense. It is always hard the first time a camper goes away to camp – for the family as well as for the camper. The first summer that I myself went away to camp, I cried for the first two days straight. Obviously, I got over that, and here we are twenty years later.
When you add the extra factor of medical conditions or disabilities, of course the parental anxiety increases. “How will they know when my child needs to use the bathroom if he can’t talk?” they wonder, or, “How will they know when my child needs a rest, before her heart has been working too hard?”
In the cases of many of our campers, the parent is the one who knows everything about their child’s medical needs. It is the parent who knows what level of activity is appropriate, is the parent who knows what signs the camper shows when they are getting tired, the parent who knows exactly what the camper will eat and what they won’t even try at meal times, and what the camper is trying to say in most circumstances.
While we can’t make it easier for parents to leave their children for the first time, we can do our very best to create the kind of atmosphere that helps parents to know their children are safe and being supported. Our extensive registration process helps to give parents a chance to tell us the answers to some of the above questions. The camper application asks specifically about how your child communicates, and, if they are non-verbal, how they indicate the needs described above. We make sure to have a very clear understanding of each camper’s needs before they arrive.
Our extensive staff training helps to make sure that we are all well prepared to handle the diverse range of needs among our campers. Staff are well-trained on best practices for managing challenging behaviours, for supporting homesick campers, and for spotting warning signs for medical issues.
We do our best to try and ease the worries of parents and guardians, because we believe passionately in the benefits of camp for each child. Especially for those who require extra support at home, camp gives them a chance to experience independence.
More on that next time…