Finding a camp for kids with special needs

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SpecialNeedsCamp2WBy Allison Eatough

Finding and selecting a camp for a child with special needs can be an overwhelming experience, parents say. Many wonder if camps can meet their child's specific medical, physical, emotional or behavioral needs. And then there is the struggle of actually leaving a child with special needs for a day or even a week.

In the weeks before Makenzie Bailey started at Camp Airways, a day camp for children with asthma, questions began to fill her mother's head.

Darlene Bailey wondered: Would her 8-year-old be able to swim? Would she need to take breaks? Who would help if she had one of her coughing spells?

She received answers to all of her questions — and more — during orientation a week before camp at Baltimore Washington Medical Center, where she and Makenzie met the nurses and respiratory therapists who staff the camp in Severna Park. After that, Bailey felt certain that Makenzie, who was diagnosed with asthma at age 1, would be safe and secure at camp.

"They were great," the Glen Burnie resident says. "It made (Makenzie) feel real comfortable. ... They've got quality people there if anything were to happen."

"I was nervous for the first overnight camp," agrees Betsy Barron, a Columbia resident whose son, Jacob, has dyspraxia, a disorder that affects motor skill development and requires him to wear foot braces.

Barron wanted Jacob, then 12, to experience the benefits of camp, but like Bailey, she needed reassurance that staff members could keep her son safe. So before enrolling Jacob, she visited Camp Greentop, an overnight camp for children and adults with disabilities near Thurmont, Md., to see the grounds and meet staff members firsthand.

"My first time, I wanted to have eyes on," she says. "I spent three hours there, talking with staff, looking at the cabins, the showers, the paths."

She says she quickly "fell in love with the place." And so did Jacob. He has attended the camp for the past three summers and plans to go again this year.

Click Next below for steps to take and questions to ask when choosing a camp for kids with special needs.

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