Statement of Policy for Campers with Special Needs
In recent years, the number of children with intellectual, developmental, emotional, and social challenges registering for camp has dramatically increased. The purpose of this policy explanation is in no way intended to discourage parents from signing up or sending their child to Path of Life, as some of our most joyful memories have been with campers who bring a unique approach to our camp program.
However, we seek to clarify for all parents what our expectations are, and what they may encounter by sending their children to our program. One of our most disappointing experiences has been explaining to parents and guardians that Path of Life cannot accommodate their child’s behavioral challenges.
Simply put, our facilities, program, and staff are not one-size-fits-all. New York State has very specific rules and regulations for camps enrolling campers with disabilities, and we have made no effort to qualify as a camp for the developmentally disabled. There is certainly some “gray area”, and many campers may not neatly fit into a specific diagnosis. Some campers with special needs will excel, and enjoy Path of Life, while others would be better served by an alternative designed specifically for them.
Our guiding principle is that any child is welcome to attend and participate in any age-appropriate program, provided their behavior is not a detriment to other campers’ experience. While we seek to display compassion and empathy to all children and their guardians, no clinical diagnosis exempts them from this expectation.
We have laid out our approach to some common challenges posed by prior campers with special needs:
Violence- some campers have a difficult time expressing their emotions or controlling their impulses, which may manifest in hitting, pushing, kicking, biting, throwing objects, or other actions resulting in harm to another camper. Our discipline policy pertaining to violence applies to all campers regardless of diagnosis.
Language/Obscenity- We set clear expectations with all campers that our language will be honoring to God and others. Outbursts of profanity or obscene gestures will not be tolerated.
Oppositional Defiant Disorder- We expect all campers to be cooperative with our staff, and a pattern of defiant, disobedient, hostile, and violent behavior toward authority is incompatible with our staff and program. Campers who run away from their counselors and the group, or disregard instructions, particularly to their own safety or that of others, will be dismissed from camp.
Nudity- Occasionally a frustrated child will expose themselves as a non-verbal protest, this behavior will result in immediate dismissal.
Staff supervision- We operate under NYS camper-counselor ratios of 1:10, usually in groups of 15-20 campers. If a child requires one-on-one aid, this could leave one counselor to supervise the remainder of the team effectively solo, which is unfair and unsafe to the team.
May a one-on-one aide (outside of camp staff) attend camp with my child? With thorough prior communication, assurance that we are not operating outside of NYS rules and regulations concerning campers with disabilities, and passing a camp-conducted background and sex offender registry checks, a parent-provided aide may accompany a camper at no additional cost.
If you have any questions about our policies, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org