Below are submissions from parents in Brookline regarding the experiences their children had a various day camps. We’ve tried to summarize the profile of the children so that the review can be read in that context – this is not meant to say this is the only profile of child that would be served by this program, it’s just the profile given by the reviewer.
The experiences here are individual and represent only the opinions of the parents that wrote them, not necessarily that of Brookline SEPAC. If you had an experience with one of these camps or another program, we’d love to hear from you. Please add your stories by emailing them to linda@BrooklineSEPAC.org
For your convenience, I’ve added links to the websites of these camps (unless a school objects, then I’ll remove them), just click on the camp name to go to their website. I have also included some resources at the end that give thoughts on things to look for and/or list special needs camps, no idea how helpful they will be, but I hope that some of you find them useful.
Beaver Summer Camp – Chestnut Hill – Lower Camp
(2013, going into pre-K), Middle Camp (2015, going into 1st grade) I have a son with mild autism, some anxiety/flexibility challenges, sensory issues and some impulsivity challenges. I alerted the camp to his issues and they had me call when they were putting together group and staff assignments so they could pair him with appropriate counselors. The Assistant Director Sue Liep was wonderful, asking all the right questions and being thankful for information about his challenges and strategies that did and didn’t work at that time. She encouraged me to update her if the strategies changed. He had a lot of fun at camp! Beaver does an excellent job of making time period lengths and the level of camper choice age appropriate. Staff was great about communicating how he was doing and when we had a couple of issues they were addressed immediately. The camp was flexible about pick up logistics which were challenging — I suggested a new strategy and they adopted it the next day. The most challenging part of the day for him (and probably for any child with impulse challenges) was the 10-15 minutes he had to wait outside sitting still at pick up. I suggest that if this is an issue for your child that you find out from his/her counselor exactly what time their group comes outside so you can plan to get there as close to that time as possible.
The negatives to Beaver are it’s large size/sort of factory feel and the very long lines at pick up. Otherwise it’s a great choice for kids who need experienced staff, set schedules, age appropriate blocks of activity time, and a good mix of physical and creative activities. There are many children at Beaver with special needs and the administration and staff definitely welcomes them.
I would highly recommend it.
Museum of Science Summer Courses – Boston – Mini Mini Med School, Dinosaur Detectives, Launch It (built and launched rockets) & Space (2015)
I have a son with mild autism, some anxiety/flexibility challenges, sensory issues and some impulsivity challenges. MOS states that they welcome children with disabilities and they do. I was open with the director about his challenges and she and I agreed that he was not the first child they’d seen with similar issues. The classes are really interesting, taught by staff whose profession is education, and the day is structured like school. There is an opening circle, sharing time, a visual schedule, fidget toys handed out to whomever looks like they need one. (I actually got to stay for about an hour and a half one day because my son couldn’t separate — so I got to see a lot more than most parents ever do!) Unfortunately it wasn’t a good match for him. He loved the courses but struggled to tolerate the relatively small and loud area where the children congregate at arrival time before being broken up into their small groups for their classes. The staff volunteered to let him wait in the vestibule, but by that time (about 3 days into his two weeks) he was overwhelmed and couldn’t consider that option. The staff was lovely and patient with him as he struggled to separate most mornings. He also struggled with the lack of physical exercise. He took both morning and afternoon classes, so at lunch time they would go outside to eat lunch, but they weren’t allowed to run. The program was great about having games and activities to occupy the kids during drop off and lunch, but they just didn’t work for him. If he needed less physical activity and didn’t have sensory issues, then this would have been a great fit. I would highly recommend it for most kids. One thing to note — the staff is not allowed to touch the kids, so asking them to block a door or hold him while I left was not an option.
MGH Aspire Camp – (formerly Youthcare) Hale Reservation in Westwood — 2013 – age 12.
Mild Autism/Asperger’s/Irritable bowel
It did not go well. He has Irritable bowel, and needs bathroom access. After the 45 minute drive to Westwood, all kids were dropped off at Westwood High field, to wait for a shuttle bus into the nearby reservation; this was the first year parents could not drop off directly, and neighbors had demanded shuttle busses for the seven camps that share the space. Westwood would not allow any Aspire kids to use the bathroom. Aspire was to send the shuttle bus, which was usually a half hour late, so that was more no-bathroom-access time, and then when the kids went into the camp, every kid ran for the few bathrooms at once, creating a long line. Further, many staff were scheduled to arrive at Westwood High with the bus, so there were not enough staff on hand to watch the dropped off kids, and some conflicts broke out. By the time my child started the camp day, he was already a stressed out mess. The long-time camp director has also just moved on, so that Summer two young staff were running it for the first time. Be aware this is an outdoor camp with minimal indoor space, and if your child tends to overheat, this could be a problem. Also, the camp uses many porta-potties, which my kid did not mind. On a rainy day, the whole camp squishes into the one small building for indoor activities. They may have these kinks worked out now, but it was not a success. This camp is just for Asperger’s and high functioning autism, no NT peers. My son’s group leaders were both college undergrads.
Camp Triumph – Bedford MA -Summer 2010 my son, age 9, attended.
This is one of three locations run by the Triumph group out of Reading, MA, that treats the ASD and related populations all year with social skills groups. Group is run by child psychologists. Camp was located in a new, air-conditioned school building, and was all high functioning ASD (and related) with no NT peers. It is a day program, with kids divided into groups of 12 kids with three counselors, who typically are a SPED teacher or related professional, a grad student, and an undergrad, the latter two studying towards degrees related to disabilities. Each counselor was responsible for writing the daily report on four kids in his/her group, and also speak with the parent. Ours was the undergrad, but the reports were insightful and informative. My son had a great time, and transition was seamless. The curriculum was designed to meet the needs of the population, and they do work on IEP goals and skill acquisition. While with the younger groups you would not know the kids had any issues at a glance (like at pickup, which is where I saw all the kids) the 13+ group did flap, and hold themselves in a way where someone would immediately know that child has disabilities.
FUSE program – Lexington
A camp where I volunteered was the FUSE program in Lexington, run by Dr. Lauren Weeks, Psy.D., who just works with high functioning ASD and related kids, and runs an excellent SPED preschool during the year. Her program is often covered by insurance as group psychotherapy. Her staff are all higher experienced and professionals. Excellent program for kids 3-10.
Summer at Park – Brookline – Leapfrogs and Polliwogs -Ages 4 and 5, Years 2014 & 2015
My child has mild autism and anxiety/flexibility issues. We tried Summer at Park for two summers because it’s a beautiful campus with an outdoor pool and daily swimming. Although the intake form is extensive and allows you to detail your child’s issues/diagnosis, as far as we could tell, the staff make little or no accommodations for social & emotional challenges. My daughter got no prep for staff and schedule changes and there was no attempt to make sure kids could say goodbye at the end of the week to friends who weren’t signed up for the next week. Despite my attempts to raise these issues, they continued, culminating in a favorite teacher leaving 2 days before the end of the program without any warning to the kids. Final analysis, not the right program for children with flexibility and anxiety issues.
Massachusetts Hospital School Summer Camp – website is being updated, limited info online
My son attended the Massachusetts Hospital School Summer Camp for 12 years. It is for children and teens(up to 22) with physical disabilities. They have boating, swimming, horseback riding, animal care and arts and crafts. It is open to all – you do not have to be a MHS student. Definitely recommend.
Nobles Day Camp – Dedham
I love ‘nobles day camp’
I worked there and took my 2 kids
1st grader and 5th grader…
Staff were super nice
Camp space is really big
I saw many international kids with big smile…
20 Questions to ask when choosing a summer program – Learning and Social Challenges
SPED Child and Teen Camps – Autism and Aspergers
Federation for Children with Special Needs Camp Guide – All children