How can I tell if I’m asking my child’s summer camp to make a reasonable accommodation?
The Americans With Disabilities Act protects kids and adults from discrimination. The law requires camps, schools and many other kinds of organizations to provide “reasonable accommodations.”
But it’s often hard to tell what counts as “reasonable.” Many lawsuits have hinged on that one word!
The answer depends on a lot of things. Factors include what you’re asking for and how much of a change the camp would have to make. For example, asking the staff to give a child her ADHD medication at a certain time of day is probably reasonable.
It might not be reasonable to ask a camp to provide a different kind of woodworking tool for kids who have issues with fine motor skills. The size of the camp is likely to factor in, as is the cost of the tool.
My best advice is to talk openly with the camp. Try to talk with a staff member well before the first day of camp—the earlier you can start these conversations, the better. This will give you both more time to think about ways to help your child get the most out of camp.
It’s also a good idea to do a little research before you start talking with the staff member. Look on the camp’s website to see if it has any information about kids with disabilities. Look on the registration form too. Does the form have any questions about disabilities?
Keep in mind that some camps have more experience than others when it comes to working with kids who have learning and thinking differences. A camp that is pretty small or pretty new might not have received many requests for accommodations. So don’t be surprised if the staff member you talk to looks a bit baffled.
It also helps if you have a clear idea of what types of accommodations your child needs. In other words, be open and helpful with ideas and suggestions. Describe in detail the strategies that your child’s school uses or that you use at home.
This can make it easier to work with camp staff to see what they can provide for your child. Coming up with some good questions can also help the camp think through what your child might need.
If everyone is prepared and understands what situations may arise, then the camp can plan ahead. For example, does your child have issues with impulse control? What about sensory processing issues? If you tell the camp what triggers cause your child to act out, then they’ll be more prepared to prevent situations and to respond to any that do come up.
What happens if your child is already at camp and there’s a behavior issue? Ideally, this won’t be the first time the camp learns that your child has a disability. But if it is, then the next step is to talk through the options. See if your child can keep participating in ways that allow for everyone’s enjoyment.
Planning ahead is key—and so is finding a camp that’s a good fit for your child. So choose the camp wisely and then start preparing for it. Be open to approaching them and be positive about ways to help your child. Good communication is essential for a great summer experience for all kids.