Summer time usually means swimming, camping, biking, and summer camps. With so many summer camp options to choose from, where would one begin? Activities, age range, and cost are just some of the factors, but the biggest challenge: will they take a child with special needs? I will be honest, there are not many camps in our area that are specifically targeted for children with special needs. In fact, you can probably count on one hand the number of camps in Chittenden County that give children with special needs an opportunity to participate in a summer camp.
I went outside the box and started looking at summer camps that every other child her age could attend. Through the years, I have been fortunate to find MANY camps and programs that are very accommodating to not only Kayla, but many children with various challenges. This year we hit the jackpot and found a camp that was like no other; Donkey Days at One Mitten Farm in Shelburne.
Kayla had the opportunity to attend this camp two years ago and enjoyed it then but this year was magical. Between the dedicated staff, structured program, small group of campers, and calm animals it creates a mellow and therapeutic environment for children to thrive in. Not only do the children learn about taking care of the animals and participate in farm chores, they play games, go on hikes, and do some arts and crafts.
I am not sure if it was the amazing staff members, the connections to the animals, the farm chores, or getting fresh grilled hotdogs for lunch every day but Kayla would rise early every morning and keep asking if it was time to go to camp yet. When we arrived, she would jump out of the car and run to the barn. When I picked her up she would procrastinate leaving and would walk around the barn. And when I got her home she was exhausted.
I strongly believe that Kayla recognizes when she fits in and belongs. No camper asked her why she wore her headphones or braces and nobody questioned why she stayed behind on a hike because her legs were tired. Whether she connected to the animals, staff members, or campers; she was very regulated at this camp. So regulated that she has already arranged to go help out with chores or horseback ride when we get back from vacation.
As I have said before, there are several camps that are very accommodating to children with special needs. Kayla’s Directory is looking to partner with some of these camps and allow children with special needs to have enjoyment like every other child. Stay tuned…..