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Monday, Jun 18, 2018
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Camps can keep special needs children on track

All parents have heard their children complain, "There's nothing to do," at one point or another during the summer. But kids who get to spend some time at summer camp are less likely to utter those words since they've learned new skills, made new friends and gleaned some new experiences.
A summer camp opportunity is especially important for children with special needs, says David Allsop, a professor in the special education department at the University of South Florida in Tampa.
"Oftentimes children with cognitive-based disabilities can fall behind during the school break, and once they get back to school in the fall, they find it hard to get back on track," he says.
But camps that are targeted to a child's needs can help to keep them focused and able to maintain their academic and social skills, he says.
"Parents need to check out the camps, find out what they offer and how they are going to help the child," Allsop advises. "Summer camps can not only help keep a child on track academically, but they can also help children with their social skills."
Catherine McManus, chief development officer for Camp Boggy Creek in Eustis, says that camps such as hers can also give special needs children a chance to interact with other kids who face the same life challenges.
"Many of our campers spend their days in a hospital or a doctor's office or at home. When they come (to Camp Boggy Creek), they get a chance to meet other kids who might have the same scars from the same surgery or be on the same medication or who are in similar situations," she explains. "It gives them a sense of belonging that they might not otherwise get."
Summer camps are not only good for the campers, but also for caregivers, says Jodi Franke of Dream Oaks Camp in Bradenton.
"While camp gives children a chance to build social skills and build their independence, it also gives parents and caregivers a breather as well," she says.
Among the area camps available for special needs children are:
* All About Speech and Language/Achievable Community Interaction Therapy, 11146 Winthrop Market St., Riverview, (813) 220-0971, www.acitherapy.com
Achievable Community Interaction Therapy along with All About Speech and Language have partnered to provide two summer day camp experiences – two-week therapeutic summer camps for children ages 5 to 12 who need intensive occupational and speech therapy as well as one-week camps for children ages pre-kindergarten through 12 who require intensive therapeutic reading and handwriting skills.
The occupational and speech therapy camps offer introductions to martial arts, dance art, writing, reading and sports, while the reading and handwriting camps focus on those skills with Orton Gillingham and Handwriting Without Tears trained instructors. For more information on cost and programs, contact Holly Marino at (813) 220-0971 or [email protected]
* Blossom Montessori School for the Deaf Summer Camp, 14088 Icot Blvd., Clearwater, (727) 539-7879, www.blossomschool.org
A six-week session for children ages 3-6, Blossom's summer day camp offers academics, arts and crafts and games along with building social skills. It is geared toward children who are deaf or hard of hearing. Held at the school, it offers campers the traditional school facilities. Call Director Julie Rutenberg at the number above for cost and more information.
*Dream Oaks Camp, 16110 Dream Oaks Place, Bradenton, (941) 746-5659, www.foundationfordreams.org
A day and resident camp for children ages 7 to 17 with serious illnesses as well as physical and developmental disabilities of the autism spectrum, Dream Oaks offers children a wealth of experiences including arts and crafts, boat rides, campfires, canoeing, dancing, horseback riding, nature programs and sports. Staffers are professionals or college students trained in social services, education or health fields. A registered nurse is on site at all times. Call the number above for costs and more information.
* Camp Boggy Creek, 30500 Brantley Branch Road, Eustis, (352) 483-4200 or (800) 462-6449, www.boggycreek.org
Created by the late actor Paul Newman and the late Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf, Camp Boggy Creek is designed for children with chronic or life-threatening illnesses. It offers weeklong summer sessions for children as well as family retreat weekends. Activities include archery, arts and crafts, swimming, horseback riding, theater, singing, dancing, boating and fishing. There is no charge to the children or families who attend Boggy Creek. Families can apply online. Facilities include an 8,000-square-foot medical center with a full-time staff. For more information, call the number above or check the website.
* Camp COAST (Children on the Autism Spectrum Together), Through the Clearwater YMCA, 1005 S. Highland Ave., Clearwater, (727) 461-9622, www.ymcasuncoast.org
Children ages 5-10 who are high-performing on the autism spectrum can take advantage of the classrooms, pool and other facilities at the Clearwater branch of the Y during its summer day camp. Activities include swimming, sailing, arts and crafts, sensory games, singing, dancing and field trips. Campers are assisted by a teen volunteer. The Y also hosts a "Y Mainstreaming Camp" designed for children who are mainstreamed through the school year. For more information on costs and programs, contact Vickie Shire at (727) 461-9622.
* EPIC (Excellence Passion Innovation Courage) Summer Camp, 12606 Henderson Road, Tampa, (813) 269-2100, www.tampadayschool.com
Located at Tampa Day School, the EPIC summer day camp is geared to children in kindergarten through eighth grade who have slight learning disabilities, dyslexia and who require smaller groups because of anxiousness. Activities include sports, arts and crafts, academic maintenance, hands-on science programs, computer labs and field trips. Counselors are certified teachers. Call the number above for more information on programs and cost.
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