Camps used to be all about heading out into the woods and living in a cabin for a month with other kids. There would usually be a couple of college age counselors. You would spend time slapping mosquitoes, learning archery, swimming, and playing games involving water balloons and shaving cream. While these sleep away camps are still out there and a lot of fun, there is a broad range of local day camps to fit every interest and need.
At one time parents concerned about academic skill loss would enroll their child in summer school, while parents who were concerned about social skills would have very little option for direct teaching during the summer months. Below are some fun alternatives to boring summer school or sitting in front of a screen at home.
Bridge Builder Academy Camps
Cutting Edge Pediatric Therapy Camps
Camp Social Heroes
Its a Sensory World
Walkez Talkez Camps
Awesome on the Spectrum is a 501(c)(3) non profit organization that offers social skills and life skills classes in a non clinical setting for children from toddler age to young adult. They provide monthly sessions that include the entire family so that the skills learned carry over to the home and social settings. They offer monthly outings so that the kids can practice the skills they learn in real time and socialize in a fun and accepting environment. They also host several sensory friendly annual events like our Easter Egg Hunt, Fall Costume Festival and Christmas Party. Awesome on the Spectrum offers resource assistance for families in search of affordable therapies, provide advocacy information and hold seminars on Autism & ABA, IEP's and 504 plans & special needs legal and financial planning. They strives to empower the whole family and help them prepare their loved ones for the best possible outcome.
A father gingerly follows his young son down the aisle, looking nervous and slightly embarrassed as the pastor makes his opening remarks. The little four year old likes to roam the aisles. The church, a loving and accepting congregation, accepts this family and this young boy with autism, but is not exactly sure how to minister to the family. The family occasionally shows up for worship, but the parents haven't felt comfortable dropping their son off for Sunday School. This is an all to common occurrence, but it does not have to be.
Many families who have children with special needs, such as autism, developmental delay, or intellectual disabilities lose connection with a church body as they work to raise their children because some elements of teaching and worship are more difficult for the child (and by extension, the parents) to access.
Finding the right place of worship, with the right supports, can make all the difference. Below are area churches and congregations that provide special needs classes, activities, and supports for children and adults.
Christ United Methodist Church, Plano- This church’s Special Angels uses the support of volunteers to help families get the most out of their church-going experience. They have an afternoon respite program for families as well.
Custer Road United Methodist Church- This church has a dedicated ministry called Friday NITE Friends, which is a respite program every Friday for medically fragile children. They also have a teen program once a month.
Highland Park United Methodist Church- HPUMC has an extensive ministry to individuals with special needs including dedicated Sunday school classes, a drama program, a bi-monthly respite program (may have a waitlist), and additional social opportunities for teens and adults with special needs.
Jewish Family Services, Dallas- This organization coordinates service efforts for Jewish families with children with special needs around the Dallas area. They collaborate with area congregations, schools, and foundations in the area to provide support groups, social activities, and classes.
Lake Pointe Church, Rockwall- This church has an extensive special needs ministry called SOAR Ministries. It has Sunday morning classes, parent workshops, a Friday night respite program, a fall festival, and summer camps.
Prestonwood Baptist Church, Plano- Prestonwood Baptist Church has a very large ministry for individuals with special needs including Sunday school, a respite program, a special AWANA class, and a support program for families.
St. Jude Catholic Church- There are numerous programs for individuals with special needs through the Catholic Diocese of Dallas including services for the deaf, life skills classes, and work to help individuals with special needs be active members of their congegation. One church is St. Jude Catholic Church in Allen. They have a class on Monday afternoons for children who need one-on-ones support.
St. Phillips Episcopal Church, Frisco- This church has a Sunday school class called Sparrows which is run by therapists and special education teachers.
Stonebriar Community Church- This church ministers to individuals with special needs across the lifespan. They have special classes with appropriate activities and theological teaching, accommodations to the building and playground, a buddy system to ensure that an individual gains a connection with the broader church body, and a support/prayer group for parents of children with special needs.
Amy Egan will be doing a "Parenting With Love and Logic" workshop at Learning RX in McKinney on the evening of Tuesday May the 19th. She is great at helping families address behavior/social challenges using compassionate, consistent techniques. (214) 356-7646
Want to know how to start a ministry for individuals with disabilities in your church? Do you want to know how to strengthen the ministries for families that have already been established in your church? This conference will provide the information you are looking for! Joni and Friends ministry has been around for decades and provides camps, training, and other supports for families and churches.
Lisa Brackin works to help families find educational solutions for their children. She works as an Educational Therapist, Consultant, and Diagnostician in the DFW area.