TWN: CAMP SEASON 2015 – SPECIAL NEEDS CAMPERS IDENTIFIED AS A UNIVERSAL CONCERN
Norman E. Friedman, M. Ed., Executive Director, AMSkier Partners
Originally Published on SKI-Way, Oct 1, 2014
It’s no secret the number of camp aged youngsters (no age exempt) with identified clinical issues has been increasing. Camps “suffer” from issues that the public or private schools typically do not experience. Misguided parents, who certainly mean well, often take their youngsters off carefully prescribed medications in the summer with or without consultation from physicians. Commonly labeled as “medication vacations” the effects can be unimaginable.
In addition, camps are plagued with family secrets related to these and other concerns with parental hopes that the camp experience, certainly less stressful than the academic pressures on their youngsters, will make the difference. True, camp is designed to be less stressful, but kids are kids and their behaviors toward each other do not necessarily change. How about all the new youngsters from many new locations and the obvious expected and predicted interactions campers will experience? It’s a no-win situation both for the special needs campers as well as for those not necessarily with the same problems.
Adults sending their youngsters to your camp need to be informed of your experiences trying to manage campers who display serious behavioral issues. These issues include violent verbal or physical outbursts, eating disorders, cutting, inappropriate sexual comments, facial and body tics, withdrawn behaviors and the inability to relate to other campers, to mention a few. In addition, campers arriving each day from homes that may be in chaos based on family problems, serious illnesses of parents, recent deaths or hospitalizations may very well display behaviors unexpected to staff caring for them. Affected campers will most often come to camp preoccupied with these issues.
Parents need to understand that you take full responsibility for the care and safety of children sent to you. But in all fairness you need essential information to do this as close to perfection as possible. Information may be provided on websites and in applications and parent handbooks. Our AMSkier “Camp-Whatever-Letter” helps parents understand exactly how you define your Culture of Safety as your intentional community and how you establish your mission. The key to success is usually accomplished by advanced information sent to camp families.
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