It’s tough to find the right summer camp for any kid. But if your child has special needs, like autism or ADHD, sensory-motor challenges, social anxiety, or learning differences, choosing a program can be especially nerve-racking: we want our kids to enjoy a traditional summer-camp experience, complete with swimming and lanyards and new friendships, while also receiving the kind of individual attention they need and with the option to avoid activities that might cause undue stress.
We’ve rounded up a number of camps favored by DSM families for their kids with disabilities or other challenges. Many of the camps outside of Des Moines provide transportation, so don’t be discouraged by the seemingly far-flung locations: it can be especially therapeutic for kids to get out of the city for the summer.
While most of these camps cater exclusively to special-needs children, other traditional summer camps often offer inclusion programs for those with mild special needs. Please consult our Summer Camp Guide for a list of our favorite summer camps across the city to see if there are any that might work for your child.
Note: If you know of a special needs summer camp that you would like to have included to this guide, please email the listing information to firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment below.
dsm4kids does NOT host any summer camps. Please consult the individual camps to see what kinds of needs they support and for additional information and to register.
Summer Camps for Kids with Special Needs in Des Moines:
Individuals with disabilities, as well as their families, experience year-round recreational and respite care activities in a camp setting. Vision, mental, physical and other disabilities are typical of the individuals served. Located in Monticello, Camp Courageous Youth Summer Camp is for campers between the ages 3 to 21 and runs from June 14 through August 14, 2020.
Camp Heart Connection, located at Y Camp in Boone, is for kids affected by cancer. This is a true summer camp experience, with activities including rock wall climbing, arts and crafts, horseback riding, and more. Oncology Camp will be offered June 14-20, 2020; Sibling Camp is August 16-22, 2020; Family Camp May 1-3, 2020 and Day Camp at Hansen Home for Hope in July 2020.
Camp Hertko Hollow is dedicated to improving the lives of children and youth who have diabetes. Campers enjoy traditional camp activities while learning about living with diabetes at Y Camp in Boone. Mini-Camps for kids ages 6-7 take place June 28-July 1, 2020 and July 1-4, 2020. Kids Week for ages 8-12 is June 28-July 4 and Teen Week for ages 13-17 is July 5-11, 2020.
Courage League Sports is a non-profit adaptive sports and recreational organization that offers year-round programming. CLS will be offering a number of summer camp and class opportunities this summer for school aged kids with special needs. Find their full summer camp listing here: Courage League Sports 2020 Summer Camps.
Located in Des Moines, Camp Sunnyside is for individuals with and without disabilities age four and older. Many different types of camps and activities are offered including canoeing, an animal farm, horseback riding, archery, nature trails, the Variety Club Rec Center, an accessible indoor pool and the Meredith Tree House. At night campers sleep in new, air-conditioned lodges. Week-long and day camps are offered throughout the summer.
At Camp Amanda the Panda located at Wesley Woods Camp and Retreat Center in Indianola, kids connect with others that have experienced the death of a loved one, campers find out what “normal” grief looks like and learn healthy coping skills. They offer both overnight and day camp opportunities. Watch their website for camp dates and registration information.
Iowa School for the Deaf holds several week-long summer camps in Council Bluffs that support children who are deaf and hard of hearing. They have some fun themes planned throughout the summer months of June and July. Campers should be independent with activities of daily living. Registration has already started and ends on May 15, 2020.
Did we miss a great summer camp for kids with special needs in Des Moines? Let us know!