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Key Takeaways from our Summer Camp Q&A with Franki Bagdade, M.ED. LLMSW

February 22nd, 2023  | News  |  By Deanna Bryan


Summer camp experiences should be for everyone! There are many different experiences and options for kids to have an overnight or meaningful day camp experience across the range of outcomes and impacts from HIE. Finding the right camp experience can be an overwhelming and stressful process, or something parents might not even know is possible, but it doesn’t have to be! With the help of Franki Bagdade [M.Ed, LLMSW] – a master’s level educator, clinical social worker, founder of FAAB Consulting and Franki Bagdade Therapy, author, and camp-inclusion extraordinaire –  parents can confidently navigate the process and find the ultimate summer camp experience for their child.

If you couldn’t make it to our live Q&A, don’t worry: we captured Franki’s main takeaways when searching for your child’s perfect summer camp fit!

Key Takeaway 1: Rely on experts, friends, and community members to start your search! 

According to Franki, one of the first steps in the search for the perfect camp experience is to look into the American Camp Association. As a national accrediting body for camps of all types, the ACA focuses on health, safety, and risk management, making it a great starting point for parents looking for reputable camps. The ACA website allows parents to search for camps based on types, goals, organizational affiliations, disabilities and other special needs, cost, and more!  Click on the link below to bring you to the ACA’s advanced search engine: 

And, of course, friends and community members are other great resources for parents. Talking to those you know or who are in a shared community allows you to hear honest feedback and insight into what their child did or did not enjoy and the support they feel they received throughout the camp experience.

Key Takeaway 2: When considering a camp, it is essential to ask about their level of flexibility and beliefs about inclusion, diversity, and choice.

Every child has different needs and interests; therefore, you and your child should determine the level of choice, flexibility, and ownership he or she should have when choosing and engaging in the camp’s programs and activities. Every camp has different approaches to choice: some camps have pre-scheduled programs for all campers, while others give campers more ownership to choose their schedules. Some camps even combine these two philosophies, depending on their inclusion and support practices.

Key Takeaway 3: There are select-few questions that every parent should consider asking camp directors, counselors, or programmers. 

It is important during the vetting process to ask the camp specific questions about your child’s needs. Here’s Franki’s go-to list of questions she recommends asking:

  1. How are my child’s medical needs addressed?
    • Are there support staff or mental health professionals on staff?
    • Is there medical staff onsite at all times? Or are they on-call?
    • How are they made available to my child?
  2. What are the processes or rules regarding camp-to-home communication?
    • How often can I communicate with my child, if needed? 
    • What does that form of communication look like?
  3. What inclusion programs are offered, and how is my child supported?
    • Is there one-on-one support? Mentors? Aids? 
    • What happens if my child does not want to participate in an activity?
  4. How do you approach disability advocacy with your campers and staffers?
    • What does staff training look like?
    • How are campers supported in understanding and accepting the needs of their peers?
  5. What are your overall camp beliefs, philosophies, or goals?

Key Takeaway 4: Plan how you and/or your child can advocate for their needs during camp.

As Franki says, a summer camp experience does not just impact the camper; parents are involved in this process, too! As a result, here are some questions to consider asking yourself to help you process what your child may need to ensure a happy, fun, and successful camp experience:

  1. Self-advocacy: 
    • What do I believe my child needs to feel safe and happy at camp?
    • What concerns do I have about my child’s needs, and how will those be communicated or met during camp? 
  2. Trust: 
    • How will the camp create trusting relationships with myself and my child?
  3. Thoughts + Feelings: 
    • What do I want my child to gain from this experience?
    • Which of my concerns need to be addressed in advance, and who is the appropriate person I have these conversations with?

Many camps have a hierarchy for communicating campers’ needs – if any of the responses to the above questions spark an issue or concern, it is important to know who to speak with in advance, whether that individual is a camp counselor, director, or supervisor.

Key Takeaway 5: Camp should be for everyone, whether a day camp or overnight!

Depending on your child’s needs, there are many camps for kids with disabilities and differences – including both day camp and overnight camp options! It may feel overwhelming to consider if you have a child with disabilities how they may do at camp and if their medical needs can be met, but this is possible! Check out the resources at the bottom of this blog to help find a camp near you that meets your child’s needs. You can also contact Hope for HIE’s team or network with other families in HIE’s support groups to find experiences local to you.

Key Takeaway 6: Feeling stuck? Franki has even more resources to use when finding the perfect summer camp experience for your child!

She’s called a camp-extraordinaire for a reason! See the helpful tools she offers below to help prepare you and your child for camp:

  1. Helpful Blogs and Articles
  2. Franki’s website for additional resources: 
  3.  Check your local resources for camps hosted by diagnosis, local disability organizations, and/or Children’s Hospitals

To watch the full Q&A, visit our YouTube Channel or click on the link below!



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