Summer Camps for Kids with Autism and Special Needs
June 9, 2019

So you have a child or teen with autism, and summer is here. Have you looked for summer camps for kids with autism or other special needs? This presents a problem many special needs parents face every year: what options are out there for my child that will keep him/her busy while safe and feeling included?

Many community programs and camps are ill-equipped to take kids with autism unless the kids are more or less independent and don’t have behavioral challenges.

Autism is a vast spectrum, and because of this, it is important to know what your child with autism can and cannot handle before deciding on summer programs or camps. An inappropriate placement, made in order to provide the child with activity during summer break, isn’t going to benefit anyone.

In fact, a bad fit between child and camp can mean a negative experience with future repercussions. The right placement, based on your honest assessment of your child/teen, combined with camp personnel’s expertise, can lead to a positive and rewarding summer camp experience, now and in the future. 

Use the listings below to begin your search if you seek a summer camp program for your child with autism. Make sure to contact the individual camps yourself with detailed questions. Information can change rapidly, and although all details provided below were accurate at the time of publishing, programs do undergo alterations.

Pricing information is located on individual websites and varies greatly among programs, dates, and ages of campers. Listings are in alphabetical order by name.

ACCESS LEISURE SUMMER CAMP

Access Leisure is proud to provide an enriching summer camp to those with sensory, intellectual, developmental, and physical disabilities. The camp runs Monday to Friday with choices from fishing, arts and crafts, nature walks, and swimming, to other special education related outdoor activities.  Access Leisure is a program of the City of Sacramento Department of Parks and Recreation.

Dates: June 17-21
Contact: Jenny Yarrow
jyarrow@cityofsacramento.org
Webpage

UCP’s ACE Camp takes place at Grizzy Creek Ranch, a special needs camp near Portola in Northern CA. Each summer, the week-long get together is a fun-filled camp for building friendships, learning social skills, and gaining confidence. Other activities include kayaking, swimming, fishing, crafting, and scooter hockey. ACE is a contracted vendor of Alta California Regional Center and is covered by MediCal and most health insurance companies.

Dates: Vary; see website.
Contact: Lia 916-283-8304
Email: ace@ucpsacto.org
ACE Office: 916-548-2562

BLUE CAMP

Located on the UC Berkeley campus in the Bay Area, this one of a kind social skills camp is for children with nonverbal learning disabilities, high functioning autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, and children with social skills deficits.

The program is not designed for those who need 1:1 assistance. Specific focus is placed on making and maintaining friendships in the culture of sports and games.

Dates: 6/17-28, 7/8-19, 7/22-8/2 M-F 9-4
Contact: Dr. Selke, jenn8@berkeley.edu, 510-643-2267
Cal Youth Camps 25 Sports Lane, Berkeley, CA 94720

CAMP KREM

This camp is a vendored camp with the regional center system as an out of home respite camp. If a camper qualifies for out of home respite, the regional center will cover 3:1 or 1:1 supervision. There are three summer camps: Main Camp, Outdoor Adventure Camp, and Travel Camp. Dates vary for each, and by age.

Dates: Varies starting June 15 through August 14.
Contact: campkrem@campingunlimited.org
831-338-3210; Main 510-222-6662 for Registration

CAMP MIND

An inclusive program separated by age groups. Must be able to use restroom independently. Must have non-aggressive behavior. Space limited. Participants selected through lottery system. Families will be notified two days after registration closes, and there are wait lists.

Dates: July 8-12 for ages 6-8; register by June 10; July 22-16 for ages 10-12; register by June 24; August 12-16 for ages 8-10; register by July 22.

Contact: Erin Rosenborough 916-703-0222; MSIDABUTAR@UCDAVIS.EDU
Applications: MINDINSTITUTE.UCDAVIS.EDU (under Events)

CAMP RONALD MCDONALD EAGLE LAKE

This camp introduces participants to fresh air, mountain lakes, and a classic camp experience. Both easy and challenging experiences await the campers who will gain social skills, friends, and confidence. Traditionally, 30% of the participants have autism or PDD.

Dates: August 3-10
Contact: Maria Damos; mdamos@rmhcnc.org
Website

CAMP WOHELO

For their 8th year, Camp Gold Hollow offers an outdoor adventure for families with special needs. The program offers day camp, overnight camp, and weekend camp programs. They offer swimming, archery, canoeing, hiking, singing, games, and a water carnival. Trained EMTs, certified lifeguards, and certified cooks are part of the experience to ensure health and safety.

The camp is located just outside of Grass Valley. They have flushing toilets and hot water showers. Participants with ASD need to be able to follow simple directions, handle outdoor terrain, and participate in a new environment. 

Dates: Day Camp: July 27. Overnight Camp: July 27-28. Weekend Camp: July 26-28.

Contact: Holly Bordwell; doublefire1079@gmail.com
info@goldenempirecouncil.org

JUVO CAMPS

Juvo aims to create a genuine camp experience for children and teens with special needs. These camps run during school breaks in summer, winter, and spring. Staff is trained in behavioral intervention and strives to offer creative and nurturing activities. Each week has a different theme which will be communicated to parents/caregivers.

Dates: Roseville – July 1-12 (except for July 4); Oakland – July 22 – August 16; Brentwood – July 15 – August 9; South Bay – July 29 – August 2.
Contact: 510-832-4383; Website

QUEST CAMPS

This is a camp located in Southern CA that provides treatment for children with ADHD, anxiety, learning disabilities, and high functioning autism. Children with aggressive behavior and serious behavioral disorders are not appropriate for this program. Quest offers an evidence-based therapeutic program to help reduce mild to moderate social, emotional, and behavioral difficulties.

Dates: Various programs run June 28 – August 8, 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday – Friday.
Contact: 714-490-3428; jknott@questsolutionssocal.co
Website
Office located in Los Alamitos, CA

TALISMAN CAMP

This camp is located in western North Carolina (not California). Campers come from all over the country to this amazing autism camp. They specialize in providing a calm and nurturing environment where children can learn new things, play games, make friends, and enjoy a true camp experience. Three age groups (6-7, 8-13, and 18-22) help make the camp experience more individualized.

Dates: 6/17-28, 7/8-19, 7/22-8/2; M-F 9-4
Contact: Roblyn Mims; 855-LUV-TALI; 828-697-6313
www.talismancamps.com; talismanprograms.blogspotcom; facebook.com/talismancamps

TUOLUMNE TRAILS

This camp is for individuals with special medical needs and is located on 80 acres outside of Groveland, CA. They have an Independence Spirit Week for ages 18 and older with a 3:1 ratio. Cap Tuolumne Trails Kids (ages 7-17) is for any special need or disability. Some 1:1 is available. UCP Friends Summer Camp is for 18 and older with a 3:1 ratio; cabins are assigned based on gender.

Camp Hanot and Friends, ages 18 and older, is for Hanot House participants and adults 18 and older. Every camp can accommodate individuals using medical and adaptive devices. Staff are trained to provide personal care on all levels. Those with abusive/harmful tendencies, those who run or roam, and those who do not sleep through the night or wander at night are generally not allowed to attend camp. 

Dates: Independence Spirit Week: June 30 – July 4; Tuolumne Trails Kids: July 7-10; Friends: July 21-24; Hanot: July 27 – August 1.
Contact: Jessica Morrison; 209-962-7534

Note: All supplemental forms must be complete with physician’s signatures and all medications must be signed off by a physician 20 days prior to the start of a session in order for a camper to attend.

VIA WEST

This is a residential respite care with weekend and week-long special needs camping programs, throughout the year. They offer outdoor experiences with an innovative program that emphasizes learning and independent living skills. Sessions are 3, 5, or 7 days in length. There are programs for ages 5-16 and 16+. Staffing ratio can be provided as 1:1, 2:1, and 3:1. 

Dates: Varies year round. See brochure HERE
Contact: 408-243-7861; www.viaservices.org
Offices in Santa Clara, CA

WAVES OF IMPACT CAMP

Waves of Impact introduces people with special challenges the thrill of riding waves. The surfing and beach experience is for the entire family. They are 100% volunteer oriented. Surf camps are provided at no cost to the participants.

Dates: August 17 (Santa Cruz); October 5 (Oceanside).
Contact: Keith Lovgren; Keith@wavesofimpact.com; Josh Harper; josh@wavesofimpact.com.

Other summer camps for kids with autism and special needs can be found on these websites:

Very Special Camps
Best Special Needs Camps
Autism Speaks Resources
Camps


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About Keri Horon

Keri is a special needs parent and a veteran high school English and journalism teacher turned writer. She enjoys writing, reading, painting, hiking, gardening, cooking, wine tasting, and practicing yoga. She a passion for creating awareness for and acceptance of differently-abled individuals. Visit her blog at www.kerimehome.com.

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