‘Tis the season for summer camps! For most children it is an exciting and fun filled time as they transition from home to a new environment filled with different adventures. But for a child with special needs, it may take a little extra preparation and follow through to ensure success.
Sensory Processing: 4 Tips to Help Prepare for Summer Camp
One of my neighbors has a daughter with some sensory processing issues. She had tried camp in the past, but sadly it was not a good experience as she ended up feeling overwhelmed, anxious and irritable at times. This week she is trying again at a camp that has more experience working with children with special needs.
Also, this smart mom ( in conjunction with her daughter’s OT) worked proactively and wrote a note for the counselors explaining some basic coping/sensory tools then followed up by speaking with the counselor by phone to touch base after 24 hours. Her daughter is now more than halfway through her camp experience and is adjusting well and most importantly having fun! If this sounds like your child, consider these easy camp coping tips:
1. Make sure your child has built in quiet time
Perhaps he/she can run an errand to the office or be the staff helper for the day. Small moments to get out of the hustle and bustle of a large group can help make a difference in keeping anxiety levels down.
2. Pack noise deduction headphones
If your child gets overwhelmed in the mess or dining hall, during fireworks or other auditory activities, be sure to pack a set of noise reduction headphones. For teens, a pair of portable ear buds may work and be more socially acceptable.
3. Encourage proprioceptive (heavy work) activities wherever possible!
Swimming is the perfect camp activity for this type of deep touch pressure and calming. Other ideas include simple gymnastics, yoga or paddling a canoe or kayak. If coordination is an issue, even carrying the rec. equipment (baseball bats, paddles, balls etc.) may provide enough of this input. Portable solutions like a small weighted lap pad or shoulder caterpillar may also be helpful to use during campfires or other seated group activities.
4. Remind counselors to use the tools and solutions when needed
Be sure to remind the counselors to offer the designated solutions to your child at regular intervals or at least as needed. Sometimes a child can move quickly into the “flight or fight” state so can no longer cognitively problem solve and/or articulate the issue. Getting a gentle reminder of the options available may help stop or reduce the anxiety and resulting escalation.