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Autism summer camps provide a safe and nurturing environment for children on the spectrum where they can learn new skills and interact with peers. Below, we list the best autism summer camps in New Jersey and provide useful tips on how to choose the perfect one for your child.
Summer Camp Options for Autistic Children
Autism-friendly summer camps are structured environments that allow children with autism to participate in activities along with their peers and learn new skills. Autism camp counselors and staff are specifically trained to work with special needs children.
Activities typically combine play and discrete teaching techniques to help children on the spectrum practice life and social skills. Some camps also provide specialized educational and outdoor activities, medical care, and dedicated counselors to meet the needs of each camper.
Attending a summer camp is an excellent opportunity for your child to learn how to make friends, gain independence, and avoid regression during the summer break. Research has shown that children with autism who attend summer camps experience significant improvements in their language and social communication abilities.
Types of autism summer camps
Autism summer camps come in all shapes and sizes, from one-week day programs to multiple-week overnight camps. In New Jersey, there are two main options to choose from: specialized (inclusive) and exclusive programs.
Specialized (inclusive) programs
Specialized programs are designed to integrate children with autism or other disabilities and their neurotypical peers in regular summer camps. These programs provide children with an opportunity to try new activities, practice skill building, and socialize, and at the same time increase autism awareness among kids without special needs.
Summer camps with exclusive programs are intended specifically for children with disabilities. While some camps include only autistic children, others welcome a broad range of special needs. Exclusive programs allow children with autism to meet others with the same condition and focus on learning specific skills and coping strategies.
Finding a summer camp that is the right fit for your child can be time-consuming and require a lot of research and planning. Here are some tips to help get you started.
Choosing a Camp That Is Right for Your Child
There are several things to keep in mind when choosing a summer camp for a child with autism:
- Take into account your child’s needs and interests. If the camp offers the type of activities your child enjoys, they will be more likely to benefit from the experience.
- Talk to other parents whose children have participated in autism summer camps. You can connect with families of autistic children through local support groups or online social media platforms.
- Ask the summer camps to provide you with references so that you can speak to other parents about their experiences.
- Consider the cost of the program. Financial assistance may be available through national groups such as Autism Speaks, the New Jersey Children’s System of Care (CSOC), and PerformCare New Jersey, or through your local Kiwanis and Rotary clubs.
Once you’ve made your selection of summer camps, you should schedule interviews with program directors to receive more information. Here are some questions you can ask:
- What is the camp‘s experience with children with disabilities?
- Does the camp have previous experience with including children with autism in their program?
- What percentage of campers have autism?
- What license does the camp have?
- What is the staff-to-camper ratio?
- What general and autism-specific training have staff members received?
- What are the camp’s typical daytime and evening schedules?
- What are the alternatives for children who are not willing or able to participate in certain activities?
- What are the camp’s safety and emergency protocols?
- What are the medical facilities on site? You can contact your child’s doctor for suggestions on medical questions to ask.
- Does the camp offer scholarships and/or grants?
In the section below, we provide two resources that will help you start your search for an autism camp for your child.
How to Start Your Autism Summer Camp Search
The American Camp Association
The American Camp Association (ACA) has a comprehensive database of close to 4,000 summer camps nationwide. To search, specify that you’re looking for a camp that serves children with autism. You can also narrow down your search by location, the duration of the program, types of activities, cost, and other criteria.
Autism New Jersey
Autism New Jersey is a non-profit organization that provides support to children with autism and their families. The autism services database includes several summer camps in New Jersey that specialize in autism programs.
Continue reading for our choice of the best autism-friendly summer camps in New Jersey.
Five Camps for Autistic Children in New Jersey
1. Amazing Summer
Amazing Summer is a camp for children with autism spectrum disorder and other special needs between the ages of 6 and 14. The camp’s Social Skills Program for special needs is offered on weekdays for a minimum duration of three weeks. Your child will learn how to make friends, engage in a conversation, manage conflicts, and cooperate with others.
The Amazing Summer Social Skills Program is facilitated by certified special education teachers, behavior analysts, and ABA therapists.
144 Kings Highway West
Haddonfield, NJ 08033
Website: Amazing Summer
2. Camp Marcella
Camp Marcella is an inclusive camp designed to help children with special needs socialize with peers and participate in activities in a traditional camp setting. The program is based on small groups where campers work on their fine and gross motor skills and socialization. The staff is specially trained to work with children with disabilities, including autism.
27 Durham Rd
Rockaway, NJ 07866
Website: Camp Marcella
3. Daisy Recreation and Camps
Daisy Recreation and Camps is a municipal recreation program for children with disabilities offered by the township of East Brunswick. Day camp activities include arts and crafts, games, and sports, and are adapted to each camper’s skill and ability levels. The camper-to-staff ratio is determined on a needs basis.
180 Hardenburg Lane
East Brunswick, NJ 08816
Website: Daisy Recreation and Camps
4. Camp Sun ‘N Fun
Camp Sun ‘N Fun is an exclusive program that offers overnight and day summer camps for kids with autism and other disabilities. Campers ages 5 and up have the opportunity to work on their social interaction skills in a safe and structured environment. Dedicated counselors are available for children who need more assistance, plus there’s full-time medical staff on site.
1036 N. Tuckahoe Rd.
Williamstown, NJ 08094
Website: Camp Sun ‘N Fun
5. Camp Fatima of New Jersey
Camp Fatima provides a unique summer camp experience for children with autism and other disabilities 6 years old and above. During a week-long sleepaway session, children participate in fun activities, make friends, and acquire new skills under the supervision of highly qualified and trained staff. The camp is free of charge for qualifying families.
PO Box 654
Harrison, NJ 07029
Website: Camp Fatima of New Jersey
Unsure of your summer plans? Call us at 732-624-6475 or send us an email at [email protected] to get more ABA hours and learn more about our services.
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