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What is a Special Needs Camp?

These camps cater for children and adults who have a range of diverse abilities that require specific and specialised care. Keep reading to learn more…

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What to Expect

These camps help campers (aged 8-80!) enjoy the summer camp experience while their parents and carers get their own respite. The facilities, equipment and activities are all adapted depending on campers’ abilities, and staff-to-camper ratios are often higher to allow campers as much care and attention as they need. You can expect to form amazing bonds not only with your campers but also with other staff. For this reason, many participants at these summer camps return year after year.

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Skills & Experience

  • No Prior Experience with Disabilities

    No previous experience is required to work with campers who have physical or learning disabilities. Camp Directors are looking for applicants who are caring, hard-working and willing to learn. Training will be provided when you arrive on camp, and you'll be offered continuous support throughout the summer.

    If you do already have experience in this field then you'll no doubt be in demand - so make sure you put it on your application!

  • Enthusiasm & a Fun-Loving Attitude

    Although these summer camps are adapted to support campers with physical and learning disabilities, they try to provide a lot of the same activities and experiences as a traditional summer camp. Activities might be smaller and more relaxed, but Camp Directors are still looking for counselors who can make sure their campers enjoy the best summer ever.

    By approaching every day and every activity with enthusiasm and fun, you’ll make sure your campers feel the same way too. They’ll be much more willing to embrace new experiences, develop new skills and build new friendships, especially if they’re first-time campers who might already be feeling a bit unsure or nervous.

  • Kindness & Compassion

    Your campers will mostly need more help throughout the day than kids at a traditional summer camp. This can range from collecting medication for them and assisting at mealtimes, to helping them use adaptive equipment during activities or overcoming challenges specific to their disabilities. The most important quality that Camp Directors are looking for is that you can approach all of this with kindness and compassion, facing challenges with a smile and celebrating successes big and small.

  • Flexibility

    Each camper will have their own individual needs and requirements. One of your most important roles as a counselor working with physical and learning disabilities is to ensure that activities are adapted so everyone can take part. You’ll often need to think on the spot and be a bit creative with your adaptations, even designing your own inclusive games, but the support and training you receive from your camp leadership team will go a long way to helping you get used to this.

  • Communication

    From sunrise to lights out, you’re likely talking to someone, somewhere. From your campers themselves, to other counselors and staff members, you’re going to need your communication skills to be in tip-top shape.

    With the campers, you need to be able to strike the balance between understanding and following rules and expectations, and creating incredible memories of one of the best summers they’ll ever have. Although, remember communication isn’t just about talking - you’ll need to actively listen to any problems or concerns, and make sure campers feel valued and heard.

    With other counselors and staff members, you’ll also be building a network of hugely supportive relationships at camp, and likely developing new friendships you’ll have for years and years to come. Communication becomes one of the most important aspects of the teamwork you’ll need to make sure each day runs smoothly.

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Real Experiences

Don't just take our word for it - this is just a snapshot of the amazing summers our participants have had at camp.

Best summers of my life! Working on a special needs camp is the most rewarding and unbelievably amazing experience, that I will continue to recommend to everyone!

Katie, Camp Lee Mar PA

Katie, Camp Lee Mar PA

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You join this bubble of people who are extremely caring and supportive, they help you grow as a person and unlock new confidence. I would recommend Camp America to anyone!

Alex, YMCA Camp Copneconic MI

Alex, YMCA Camp Copneconic MI

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I worked with children on the autistic spectrum at camp the summer of 2015 and 9 years later I'm still saying it was the best summer of my life!

Lucy, Camp Northwood NY

Lucy, Camp Northwood NY

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Camp is the great place to try new activities and make amazing memories as everyone is supportive and happy to help you grow out of your comfort zone while finding your favourite hobbies and interests.

Emily, Jamestown 4-H Educational Center VA

Emily, Jamestown 4-H Educational Center VA

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I had NO experience working with disabilities and now it is highly likely that I will go down that route for a career! It is undoubtedly the most rewarding and amazing experience that anyone can ask for!

Ash

Ash

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Camp America gave me an understanding of responsibility that I hadn’t experienced before. By the time I came home, I’d gained valuable leadership skills to take into future careers.

Sam, Camp Lakota NY

Sam, Camp Lakota NY

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How Do I Apply?

If you feel you have the right qualities to spend your summer working with children and adults with special education needs and disabilities, then make sure you let us know you’re willing to work at this type of camp in your application. No prior experience is necessary, although if you do have previous experience working with disabilities then you’ll be perfect for these camps. It truly is one of the most rewarding summer jobs you can have.

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Make a difference this summer

If you’re inspired to spend your summer working with adults and children with special education needs and disabilities, start your application today using the link below. It will be one of the most rewarding work experiences you ever have.