Bay Area Summer Resources for Special Needs Families

Here are the notes from last night's Special Ed PTA presentation on Summer Camps for Challenging and/or Special Needs Children. We were all pleasantly blown away by the number of incredible summer resources and options available to our children.


They have family meetings.

They try to have as many fun activities as possible.

The age that seems to be neglected is the pre-teen through early adult age range, so this is what they provide. She has activities at Mercy High school and Stanford, etc.

They are having a social (not a dance), because the word "dance" puts too much pressure on people. It is a chance to hang out with friends; a lot of times these kids will be shuffled around in county placements, etc., so they don't necessarily have a lot of other opportunities to see their friends from previous classrooms.

Parca has a respite program for kids age 6 to 17, in Burlingame.
Details at http://www.parca.org/raji.html

They have a summer camp with inclusive child care, you can pick by the week. They are in session while school is on vacation. However they don't provide transportation. The camp is called REACH and is located at Crestmoor Elementary in San Bruno.
Details at http://www.parca.org/REACH.html

Parca sprang from families rebelling against the days when families with childrens with disabilities were told not to bond with them. Their children have thrived due to parents advocating for better health and education services.

The nurse who started Parca is still in Palo Alto. She really forged the path for the families who have benefited, come after her. She enabled parents to be together and share stories, because no one else can understand what you're going through when you have a child with a disability. Some of the serious stuff makes you want to cry, but these parents were able to handle it because they had each other.

The speaker's personal perspectives on raising a special needs child (her child is now an adult):

She is a general ed science teacher and special ed mom; she advocates being hands on as much as possible with your children because that way you can see if you're overdoing or not.

She believes we need to teach our children to advocate for themselves. We need to teach our special needs children mantras: e.g., We never swim alone, cook alone, bathe alone, go outside alone, open the door alone.

Kid cel phones (four #'s only) are wonderful for keeping in touch with our kids, even when they become adults.


Lighthouse Project (Campbell/Los Gatos)

The camp is located at Los Gatos Creek Park on the border of Campbell and Los Gatos.

The Lighthouse Project is a year-round Pediatric OT (Occupational Therapy) Clinic for children with high-functioning autism, ADHD, NVLD, Aspergers, Social dysfunction, Social pragmatics, Sensory integration issues, etc..

They work with children from age 3 to 16 (including all high school). They see children at the clinic 1x week/hour.

This summer they have 12 camps, geared towards specific issues, mostly social issues. Specific themes include frustration tolerance, anger management, self-control, self-confidence, making friends, surviving middle school, etc. There is also an organization camp for the older kids, teaching tools for learning how to self-organize.
Details at http://www.thelighthouseproject.com/camps/camps.html

There is a parent intake evaluation, with the director, before campers can attend.

Day camps are from 9 AM to 3 PM, from the end of June to mid-August.

For 3 - 6 year olds, they have speech therapy mini-camps in mornings, and OT camps in the afternoon.

Transportation is not provided.

Costs are $140/individual and $110/group.

The camp has wonderful facilities, including a gym and a classroom setting with a rock wall, swings, jungle gym, etc.

They are not vendorized through the Regional Centers, but they do work with some of the local San Jose school districts (e.g., Alum Rock).


Redwood City Parks & Recreation

**You do not need to be a resident of Redwood City to participate in RWC Parks & Rec, and there is no non-resident fee.**

When the RWC Parks & Rec guide arrives, Page 74 is the accessible recreation activity page that everyone turns to. However they have worked really hard, applied for grant with state of CA to launch and inclusion program, which has become an inclusion philosophy.

They want people to be able to join any program they want to, any program they see in the guide. The whole guide is for everyone, with any type of disability.

What if my child has severe autism?
• They have to be with their age peers. They cannot be with younger children.
• They have to be able to thrive in the program.
• But if these two factors are not an issue, they will be matched up with a volunteer mentor/buddy.

They are also looking for volunteers. The program will only succeed if they have volunteers. They provide official community service hours.

They also provide the opportunity to meet with the class's teacher beforehand, which is not normally an opportunity offered by park & rec departments.

They also provide inclusion application forms. They need at least two weeks to find a good volunteer. The form is available online, click on the Inclusion Program form on the Accessible Recreation Page:

Accessible Recreation program is more of a social club. It is for ages 13 and up. Weekend trips, socials, dances, etc.

If you have a child 13 and under and are looking for more specialized programming, she recommends looking at the San Carlos Special Needs program. Unfortunately, the San Carlos programs don't group participants by age; they have all ages together.

If a sibling is the participant's mentor/buddy, they get to go to the camp for free, but they try to avoid this if she can, if they have other volunteers available.

She prefers for parents to be really open and honest about their children's needs, because they're not going to turn anyone away if they can help it. However they have to protect their other campers and so cannot have a child who is a safety or violence risk.

Families can provide their own aides/buddies, if they'd like.

Volunteers are never left alone with the participants. A staff member is always present.


BOK Ranch

BOK Ranch's main office is in RWC, but the program is operated out of the Horse Park in Woodside off of Sand Hill Road. The program is 24 years old.

Prices are the same for everyone:
Intake is $30.
Riding lessons are $50, usually in seven-week sessions. There are four riders per class.

It is a therapeutic riding program (recreation), not a hippotherapy (clinical therapy) program (which is ~$130 for thirty minutes).

Hippotherapy goals are therapeutic, but
Therapeutic riding goals are equestrian -- learning how to ride a horse.

Sohis is not the same as NCEFT, which is hippotherapy (clinical), aka physical OT or Speech Therapy on horseback. NCEFT starts at 18 months. People/kids who get discharged from NCEFT are frequently referred to BOK. BOK is recreational.

She said that we would be surprised how many kids' behavioral issues disappear once they get on a horse. Although sometimes the intake can take a while.

They are starting to expand into a lot of different programs.

They used to have 23 riders/week, now they have 100/week.

They have three levels of riding classes: Maximum Support, Minimum Support, and Transitional.

Riders can start at age four and go through adulthood. Oldest current rider is 72.

There is a weight limitation of 180 lbs which is being stretched for the Veterans' program.

Riders have to be able to sit independently on a horse. They do not hold people on the horse (Test for candidates: can they sit on a bar stool with a helmet on their head?)

Volunteers: they use 80 a week. Volunteers are always a need. They need volunteers to make a long-term commitment, so this is not a good placement for someone who only needs to fulfill 20 hours of community service.

Enrollment is based on an initial intake process. Intake packets are not available on the website because they prefer to screen people on the phone first. Mostly it is a lot of release forms, plus a form that needs to be signed by your child's doctor (but does not require a separate doctor visit). Once the packet is submitted, then they do an intake evaluation.

People with severe spinal cord injuries are not recommended.

New programs include:

Vaulting (gymnastics on horseback)
• The kids have to be able to follow directions with less than a 3 second delay
• Have to be able to dismount independently

Carriage Driving Lessons
• For people who can's sit astride a horse, they can learn to drive
• Wheelchair accessible carriage

Disabled Iraqi Veterans and Their Families (Horses for Heroes)
• A Trail Club/recreational club to incorporate families (first in the country)
• Team sports (a lot of the vets are very competitive, as they were disabled in top physical form)
• The Adaptive Polo Team has western saddles, BIG mallets, practices adjacent to the Stanford Polo Team


Camp Opehay (Formerly Camp New Hope)

This is a camp for children with pediatric bipolar or mood disorders (children who have other conditions in addition to the BP or mood diagnosis are welcome)

Camp Opehay, in conjunction with Stanford Pediatric Bipolar program
Three-day camp for kids with BP, the only one in the US, it's for kids age 9 - 17

Kids need to be "euthymic" at time of application. This means they cannot be depressed, manic, or mixed.

Two doctors on staff the entire time
Kids get all their meds on time, every day.

100% volunteer-run! They needs more volunteers.

At Camp Arroyo in Livermoore, cabins, swimming pool, rock climbing,

Try not to have it be too "therapeutic," more relaxing and fun.

There is one therapeutic component, but it's more educational.

Question: What about a non-medicated oppositional-defiant child? Answer; Bring 'em on!

The camp exists, is parent-founded, to give kids an opportunity to just be kids.

August 9 through August 11. About 56 kids is the limit. Get applications in ASAP!

Are hoping to make it a week-long camp in 2009, so are doing more fundraising and recruiting more volunteers.

Another resource is the Stanford Pediatric Bipolar Clinic

For parents with BP who are worried about their kids. They cover bipolar, mood, anxiety disorder, etc.

Free evaluations, clinical and genetic studies, kids sometimes even get paid for participating.

Also good for kids in foster scenarios, group homes.


Camping Unlimited/Camp Krem

Started in 1957

Not volunteer-driven, staff is paid

Vendorized through East Bay Regional Center, also there are some "Camperships" that are available.

In Boulder Creek in the Santa Cruz Mountains

From June 8 through August 9th.

Provide recreational services for people with developmental disabilities form age 5 through adulthood.

They mix everyone together, kids are not separated out by disability. However they are separated by age. Staff ratio is 1:2 but they do have limited 1:1 spots available.

Summer camps are five sessions, with three 12-day sessions, one 10-day session, one seven-day session.

They do pickup in Vallejo and Emeryville.

There is an open House Saturday May 10th.

Sign ups start Nov. 1st.

There are three different camping programs:

Main Camp
  • Traditional camp, cabins, eat in mess hall, arts & crafts, swimming pool, hiking, etc.
  • 60 campers at a time
Outdoor Camp (age 14 and up)
  • Campers are a little more independent, sleep in tents, cook own meals and clean up, a little more independent programming, 2 - 3 day hike, 12 mile hike from Big Basin to the beach.
  • Take compasses, go out into the woods, stargaze through telescopes, come up to the main camp to swim and join in some of the programs.
  • 15 campers at a time
Travel Camp (age 14 and up)
  • Arrive first day , next day go someplace else in CA. e.g., Big Sur - Monterey - Carmel
  • 15 campers at a time
Also year-round Day program (some sleepover weekends), goes from Sept - April, also excursions (e.g., Exploratorium, bowling, etc.)

How do they deal with bolters? Maybe they'll be a 1:1 camper. But the camp is not enclosed or fenced. They have never lost a camper yet.


Social Strides
New clinic in Redwood City

The director does social skills, parent testimony is that it is fun, but rigorous, the therapist understands behavior.

She will be offering summer social groups.

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