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A Parents Guide to Popular Overnight Special Needs Summer Camps in the Northeast of the United States

The overnight summer camps listed below are specifically tailored for children and adolescents (and even adults) with intellectual, verbal (particularly, spoken language impairments and speech disfluency — also known as stuttering), and/or nonverbal learning disabilities (including physical discoordination and social cue disorders, such as attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism spectrum disorder (ASD), mood disorders, and Tourette's syndrome), as well as other developmental disabilities.

The most creditable on this list are Camp Ramapo—renowned across the nation for their excellent special education and behavior management training programs, in addition to Summit Camp & Travel and Easterseals' Camp Fairlee, the latter two have an unparalleled counselor criteria of professional staff.

Camp Akeela

1 Thoreau Way

Thetford Center, Vermont 05075

(866) 680-4744

Established: 2009

Founder/Camp Director/Owner: Eric & Debbie Sassin

Disabilities Served: Mild Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Activities: Animal Farm & Garden, Archery, Arts & Crafts, Baseball, Basketball, Beyond Akeela Program, Campcraft and Orienteering, Canoeing, Ceramics, Cooking, Dance, Drama, Family Camp Program, Fencing, Football, Frisbee Golf, Golf, Hiking, Horseback Riding, Kayak, Martial Arts, Music, Nature & Science, Paddle Boarding, Paddleboat, Residential Summer Camp Program, Rocketry, Ropes Course, Sailboating, Soccer, Softball, Swimming Pool, Tennis, Volleyball, Woodworking

Easterseals: Camp Fairlee and Camp Merry Heart

Established: 1954

Locations: Maryland and New Jersey

Easterseals CEO/President/Owner: Angela F. Williams

Disabilities Served: ADHD, ASD, Cerebral Palsy, Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder, Down Syndrome, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), Fragile X Syndrome, Hearing Impairment, Intellectual Disability, Intermittent Explosive Disorder, Muscular Dystrophy, Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), Physical Discoordination, Rett's Syndrome, Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD), Speech Disfluency, Spoken Language Impairment, Tic Disorders, Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), Visual Impairment, William's Syndrome

Activities: Adult Travel Program, Arts & Craft, Baseball, Basketball, Biking, Boating, Campcraft, Canoeing, Dance, Drama, Fishing, Games, Gardening, Hiking, Karaoke, Low & High Ropes, Residential Summer Camp, Rock Climbing, Soccer, Softball, Splash Pad, Swimming Pool, Talent Show, Volleyball, Wildlife Ecology

About: Easterseals has a collection of one of the two largest special needs summer camp agencies in the country and they admit children and adults with a wide array of disabilities, including auditory and visual impairments (blind or deafness), cerebral palsy, down syndrome, intellectual disabilities, muscular dystrophy, verbal and nonverbal learning disabilities, as well as other social, emotional, and developmental challenges. Their camps consist of a number of activities, such as campcraft, horseback riding, outdoor sports, rock climbing, swimming, and ziplining. The organization also has an adult travel trip program and weekend respites.

Camp Fairlee has a very strict counselor criteria of qualified professionals and they along with Camp Merry Heart are situated on beautifully mantained campuses in Chestertown, Maryland and Hackettstown, New Jersey, respectively.

Camp Fairlee

22242 Bay Shore Road

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Chestertown, Maryland 21620

(410) 778-0566

Camp Director: Sallie Price

Camp Merry Heart

21 O'Brien Road

Hackettstown, New Jersey 07840

(908) 852-3896

Camp Director: Bob Zirkle

Camp Lee Mar

450 Route 590

Lackawaxen, Pennsylvania 18435

(215) 658-1710

Established: 1953

Founder: Lee Morrone

Camp Director/Owner: Ari Segal

Admissions: Lynsey Trohoske

Disabilities Served: Severe ASD, Angelman's Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, Down Syndrome, Fragile X Syndrome, Intellectual Disability, Physical Discoordination, Rett's Syndrome, Speech Sound Disorders, Spoken Language Impairment, Traumatic Brain Injury, William's Syndrome

Activities: Academics, Arts & Crafts, Baseball, Basketball, Camp Adventures, Daily Living Skills, Drama, Fishing, Football, Gardening, Hiking, Hockey, Kickball, Music and Movement, Occupational Therapy, Paddleboat, Photography, Physical Therapy, Science & Nature, Soccer, Speech Therapy, Swimming Pool, Tennis, Therapeutic Horseback Riding, Vocational and Academic Job Training, Ziplining

Ramapo for Children: Camp Ramapo

P.O. Box 266

22 Camp Ramapo Road

Rhinebeck, New York 12572

(845) 876-8403

Established: 1922

Camp Director Emeritus: Mike Kunin

Camp Director: Matthew McKnight

Chief Executive Officer/Owner: Adam Weiss

Registrar: Kayla McNamara

Diagnosis Served: ADHD, ASD, Angelman's Syndrome, Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), Fragile X Syndrome, Intellectual Disability, Intermittent Explosive Disorder, ODD, PTSD, Physical Discoordination, Rett’s Syndrome, SAD, Speech Disfluency, Spoken Language Impairment, TBI, Tic Disorders, William's Syndrome

Activities: Animal Farm, Arts & Crafts, Baseball, Basketball, Boating, Campcraft, Canoeing, Ceramics, Chess, Community Outreach and Training Programs, Cooking, Day Camp Program, Football, Goldstein Reading and Technology Center, Health & Fitness, Iceberg, Kayaking, Low & High Ropes, Music, Nature, Paddleboating, Playground, Residential Summer Camp Program, Rowboating, Sailboating, Soccer, Staff Assistant Experience Program, Swimming Pool, Teen Leadership Program, Volleyball, Woodworking

About: Ramapo for Children is a year-round organization renowned for training potential special education teachers, behavior analysts, psychologists, and social workers in the field. Camp Ramapo enrolls children and adolescents with various emotional and developmental disabilities, such as ADHD, autism spectrum disorder, fragile X syndrome, intellectual disabilities, mood disorders, physical discoordination, spoken language impairments, and Tourette's syndrome. Some of their camp activities include animal farming, basketball, campcraft, indoor rock climbing, swimming, video games, and ziplining. The staff provide excellent positive behavior support and self-management techniques with their campers, and it is located on an exceptionally beautiful campus in Rhinebeck, New York.

NJ 'Y' Camps: Round Lake Camp

570 Sawkill Road

Milford, Pennsylvania 18337

(570) 296-8596 x145

Established: 1981

Founder: Eugene Bell

Camp Director: Aryn Barer

NJ 'Y' Camps Executive Director/Owner: Michael Schlank

Disabilities Served: ADHD, ASD, Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder, Intellectual Disability, ODD, SAD, Speech Disfluency, Spoken Language Impairment, Tic Disorders

Activities: Arts & Crafts, Bar Mitzvah Tutoring, Baseball, Basketball, Candle Making, Canoeing, Canteen, Cartooning, Ceramics, Computers, Cooking, Dance, Drama, Fencing, Filmmaking, Fishing, Flag Football, Gymnastics, Hiking, Hockey, Horseback Riding, Iceberg, Kayak, Lacrosse, Low & High Ropes, Mountain Biking, Nature Center, Newcomb, Paddle Boarding, Photography, Pioneering, Playground, Rave Trampoline, Robotics, Sailboating, Science, Scuba Diving, Shabbat Services, Skateboarding, Soccer, Swimming Pool, Tennis, Volleyball, Waterslide, Weight Training, Windsurfing, Woodworking

About: NJ Y Camps feature residential summer camps providing traditional camp activities—such as baseball, basketball, soccer, swimming, and ziplining—in addition to Jewish programming and Shabbat services. Round Lake Camp is an inclusionary program on the NJ Y Camps' campus that mainly serves children and adolescents with nonverbal learning disabilities, including ADHD, high functioning autism, and Tourette’s syndrome. Other campers have spoken languages impairments as well.

Summit Camp & Travel

168 Duck Harbor Road

Honesdale, Pennsylvania 18431

(570) 253-4381

Established: 1969

Founder: Mayer & Ninette Stiskin

Senior Director Emeritus: Eugene Bell

Camp Director/Owner: Shepherd Baum

Admissions: Leah Love

Diagnosis Served: ADHD, ASD, Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder, FAS, Intermittent Explosive Disorder, ODD, PTSD, SAD, Speech Disfluency, Spoken Language Impairment, TBI, Tic Disorders

Activities: Animal Farm, Archery, Arts & Crafts, Banana Boat, Bar Mitzvah Tutoring, Baseball, Basketball, Campcraft, Canoeing, Canteen, Center Program, Ceramics, Computers, Cooking, Dance, Drama, Discovery, Filmmaking, Football, GAGA, Go-Karts, Hockey, Kayaking, Kickball, Lake Slide, Low & High Ropes, Martial Arts, Mountain Biking, Music, Paddleboating, Performing Arts, Residential Summer Camp Program, Rowboating, Sailboating, Soccer, Social Skills Instruction, Softball, Swimming Pool, Teen Travel Program, Tennis, Track & Field, Trampoline, Trust Games, Weekender Social Trips Program, Woodworking, Yoga

About: Summit Camp & Travel was founded by Mayer and Ninette Stiskin in 1969. Named after The Summit School in Queens, New York—which Mayer’s brother Hershel founded the year before, it was originally established as a place where those students could attend over the summers. According to Newsweek in 1997, Summit Camp evolved into the top two largest special needs sleepaway camps in the country. Despite not being affiliated with the school or its residential center in Nyack, as the student population became more high functioning over the years, so did the campers enrolled.

Located in Rileyville (roughly 10 miles north of Honesdale), Wayne County, Pennsylvania, the camp enrolls children and adolescents, most of whom have nonverbal learning disabilities, such as ADHD, high functioning autism, mood disorders, and Tourette’s syndrome. They even accept campers with spoken language impairments during the first summer sessions (as well as on some of the local teen travel trips).

Summit offers traditional camp activities—ranging from basketball to tennis—in addition to banana boating, go-karts, social skills instruction, ziplining, and more! Campers earn bunk stars for being safe, respectful, and participating in each activity. Older campers in the teen travel program have traveled nationally to California, Florida, Hawaii, and New England, as well as abroad, including Canada, Cancun, Costa Rica, Israel, and Western Europe.

Akin to the reputation of Easterseals' Camp Fairlee, Summit has one of the most competitive counselor hiring processes and requires professional recommendation letters, in addition to an extensive background working with this population of children. "Summit developed programs and curriculum which have been modeled by other programs in helping [their] youth find success in a recreational environment" (Summit Camp & Travel, n.d.), and is regarded by the American Camp Association for its professional staff, as well as for being an "experientially positive oasis for [the] campers and a meaningful respite for their families" (American Camp Association, n.d.).

Works Cited

  1. "History of Summit Camp." Summit Camp & Travel, https://summitcamp.com/history/
  2. "Summit Camp - Summit Camp & Travel." ACA, American Camp Association, http://find.acacamps.org/program_profile.php?program_id=85

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