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Summer camp 2007: it's never too early to start planning

This is a great time of year to start chatting up parents in the neighborhood or at school about the camps their children attended this summer.

"For children with disabilities, the camp experience can help to build self-esteem, make friendships and develop life skills," said Gary Robb, director of the Indiana University-based National Center on Accessibility, which has created two online resources for parents, Discover Camp ( and University Challenge Courses ( NCA provides training, technical assistance and research on the inclusion of people with disabilities in parks and recreation.

"While it might be too late to actually attend camp this year, it's a great time to start planning for next summer," Robb said.

With the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, a growing number of traditional camps have staff trained on techniques and adaptations for including children with disabilities. Specialty camps for kids with disabilities are conducted throughout the United States, often run cooperatively with disability/advocacy organizations such as Easter Seals and United Cerebral Palsy.

"Inclusive and specialty camps are great opportunities for children with disabilities to become involved in outdoor recreation," Robb said. Here are some tips for finding camps:

  • Helpful Internet resources: The American Camping Association camp Website includes a searchable database,; Discover Camp offers tips for parents,; Discover Camp also has a searchable database of recreational programs,
  • Parents can talk to other parents about their kids' camp experiences, compiling a list of the camps' names, locations and specialties so they can contact the camps for more information.
  • In addition to day camps and residential camps, which could involve more travel, parents can check out the offerings in their local parks and recreation departments.

NCA is a center of the Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Studies in IU Bloomington's School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation.