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summer camp for special needs kidsYour child loves computers, video games, or anything mechanical.  He or she would love to stay in the house and play on the iPad or computer all day every day.  It is unnerving and a little (or maybe a lot) scary to see how absorbed your child becomes in these devices.

You plot and plan how to get him or her outside or engaged in physical activity during the school year.  How will you manage a whole summer????  I know…sign him or her up for camp; a nice out door camp with lots of kids who like to swim, do crafts, play sports, and essentially, like being with other kids.  What a great idea!  But then half way through the first week your child says he won’t go back to camp.  Nothing there is interesting.  The other kids are annoying.  Now what?

Of course, this may be an extreme example of what some uniquely quirky kids and families go through (or maybe not) but here are a few tips to help you and your child get through the camp experience.

  • Camp is a time and place to have fun so make sure the chosen camp has some activities your child enjoys.
  • Uniquely quirky kids tend to immerse themselves in activities/objects of interest.  It is helpful if there are other kids at camp who share some of those interests.  Talk with the director or a veteran counselor who might be able to direct you and your child to at least one other camper with similar interests.
  • Kids who might be described as quirky often don’t fit in with the crowd.  It is not only important to have your child find a buddy or two who shares the same interests but also make sure he or she has opportunities to shine.  If your child loves building elaborate Lego structures, wouldn’t it be great to have a Lego time at camp in which other kids can be in awe of your child’s outstanding focus and skill with Legos?
  • Quirky kids often have difficulty reading facial expressions and body language.  It’s hard to interact with peers when so much of the communication is non-verbal.  It’s much easier to become absorbed in isolated areas of interest.  Explain this challenge to the camp director and staff.  Teach them how to be direct and use explicit language when giving directions or teaching an activity.  They can then help other campers communicate better with your child.
  • Teach your child strategies for showing interest in others or “faking it.”  Role-play ways your child can show a good listening body such as nodding, saying, “Wow!” or asking questions.  This helps kids fit in.
  • Social interaction can be extremely draining for the uniquely quirky kid.  Make sure there is a balance of activities within each day.  Your child should be permitted to take a “break” by removing himself from the group for brief periods of time when needed.
  • If playground games or sports are overwhelming for your child’s sensory or motor system, talk with a counselor about providing a special role during activities so that he or she can still participate.  For example, your child could be the “timer” or “score keeper”.
  • Although it may not be preferred, make sure there are opportunities for some physical and outdoor activity throughout the day.  Some quirky kids are less averse to more individual activities such as karate or yoga.
  • Finally, if your child needs a break from camp, allow him or her to stay home for a day.  Make sure it is clear that this is a “personal day” to re-group and re-charge for the days to come.  It is so important for our kids to learn about their needs so they can feel comfortable engaging fully in life, enjoy interacting with others, and understand how and when to give themselves a reprieve.

Wishing you and your uniquely quirky child a full and fun summer!

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