As we hurtle through the spring semester, parents start planning their kids’ summer activities. If you’re like us, you need full-day care so you and your partner can work; this limits the camp options in the Kansas City metro area. If you have a child with disabilities, it can be even harder to find good places for your kids.
Peanut and Sprout spent last summer at a variety of day camps around town. Here’s a round-up of our experiences with each:
Camp: Alphapointe Adventure Camp
Cost: $100, scholarships available. ($)
Alphapointe Adventure Camp was tied for Peanut’s favorite summer adventure with Bear Camp. It’s fun, affordable, and designed for children with visual impairments. If you’re looking for an adventure for a B/VI child in the metro area, you can’t go wrong with Alphapointe.
Camp: Cub Scout Bear Camp STEM Camp
Cost: Varies. Each Cub is required to have an adult camp with him/her ($$)
Web site: https://www.hoac-bsa.org/stem
I’m the den leader for Peanut’s Cub Scout Bear den, so I got to go with him to Bear Camp last year. He loved it.
- The paths in Cub World are generally wide and graveled, so they’re very easy to navigate.
- There are some trails that you’ll need to take. These are a bit more challenging, but Peanut did fine with his cane, a hiking pole, and adult (my) supervision.
- Activities are largely hands-on, which is good for a tactilely-oriented kid. Peanut got to throw stones at targets, shoot a BB gun, practice archery, climb through old ‘mines’ looking for gold, build a bird house, and explore the Pirate Ship water park. You’ll be there with your kid, so you can adapt things as needed (I did a lot of aiming). The water park is zero-entry and wide enough for wheelchair access.
- Bring a wagon–you’ll be hiking a fair distance from your car to your camp site.
- Sunscreen and bug spray are musts.
- You get a good start on a LOT of Bear required adventures.
- Dinner is a bit more challenging–Peanut had a hard time navigating on his own, and of course didn’t want to ask for or accept help.
- There is coffee. (I wondered. Now you don’t have to.)
Camp: Girl Scouts Day Camp
Cost: Varies by Service Unit ($)
I’m also the co-leader for Sprout’s Girl Scout troop (yes, I scout a lot), so I also got to experience GSA Day Camp. Our Service Unit went out to Camp Prairie Schooner for a week last summer; girls had to be at the drop-off point for busing by 7:45 a.m., so it worked well from a work standpoint. Pick-up was a bit earlier, so some wiggling might be required for full-time employees.
I didn’t spend as much time at Camp Prairie Schooner as I did at Cub World, so I’m not able to say as much about its accessibility. The main “drag” is graveled and wide enough for a vehicle, so definitely navigable. They have a standard swimming pool; it did not appear to be zero-entry. The older girls are the camp counselors for the younger girls, so might not be as prepared to handle a child with a disability as an older counselor might. I think this is one that would be ok with a lot of parental involvement: be involved with your service unit, help in the planning, and consider attending camp with your kid. Volunteers are always welcome, and you can help meet your kiddo’s accessibility needs.
Camp: Johnson County Parks & Recreation Summer Escapades
Cost: Varies, depending on residency and how many kiddos you’re sending. ($)
Peanut and Sprout’s longest camp experience last summer was with Johnson County Parks & Recreation’s Summer Escapades program. This is an outdoor camp that has locations in several Johnson County parks; our kiddos hung out at Antioch. The kids are separated by age group, and each camp group has its own picnic shelter as its home base. Kona Ice comes to visit once a week (your kiddo will need money for this); they go swimming at least once a week; and each camp takes field trips.
We prepped Peanut to do well at Summer Escapades. I called Parks and Rec before enrolling him to ask which of their camp options would be best (they have both indoor and outdoor camps); they suggested the outdoor camp for a child with his disability. We made sure to attend his orientation session and let the counselors know that he was coming, answer their questions, and offer suggestions. This year, I may go a step further and provide a deck of braille playing cards (they play a lot of board/card games at camp, and Peanut’s vision has declined).
Camp: Kansas State School for the Blind’s K-S.E.E. Program
Cost: Depends on whether you’re in-state or out-of-state and the support given by your school district ($$$)
Technically, this is an extended school year program, not a summer camp. I know some parents are wary to try it, however, so I wanted to cover it here. Put simply, if you have the option to send your kiddo to the K-S.E.E. Program, DO IT.
Peanut has attended the K-S.E.E. Program annually since kindergarten, and each year has been a positive experience. He’s gotten three weeks to spend with other B/VI kids in an environment designed for B/VI children. He’s gotten to do all sorts of activities, from riding bikes and catching fish to visiting local attractions like the Mahaffie Stagecoach and the Kansas City Zoo. He’s worked on expanded core curriculum skills, particularly self-care and cooking, and practiced his braille. Even though it’s school, KSSB makes it FUN, and Peanut loves it.
Camp: YMCA Summer Day Camp
Cost: $175/week/child ($$$)
As much as we love YMCA Challenger, we hated YMCA’s Summer Day Camp. Peanut and Sprout only attended for a week (thank God), and we were not impressed. This was by far the most expensive of the camps we sent the kids to, and it absolutely had the most problems.
The site Peanut and Sprout went to is not open this year; this may be because of a number of problems they experienced at the camp last year (we stayed on the mailing list, so we got weekly updates of the misadventures occurring at that location). I think part of the issues we personally had were because of the counselors’ youth and inexperience with children with disabilities: Peanut’s an independent kid, and they weren’t prepared to allow that independence. He reacted badly to being given too much assistance.
The Y did have the most impressive field trips of the camps our kids attended–the week they were at the Y, for example, our kids went to CoCo Key Water Resort. Even so, Efrit and I would go out of our way to keep our kids from attending YMCA Summer Day Camp this year.