3 Tips for Camping with Children with Special Needs

camping with special needs Photo by Unsplash


3 Tips for Camping with Children with Special Needs

Camping trips are the epitome of summer vacations. They allow you to spend the warm months in the great outdoors, enjoying the fresh air and time away from your busy schedule. However, a trip of any kind can prove difficult for families with children who have special needs. Though camping poses its own set of risks for kids with disabilities, that shouldn’t mean that any child has to miss out on the fun. Here are a few tips on camping safely with a child with special needs.

Take Precautions When Playing in Bodies of Water

Children on the autism spectrum are often very attracted to water so be sure to go over water safety rules with them carefully when you arrive at your site. If you’re especially close to the water, you may even want to bring a small stop sign along to post it in front of the water as a reminder to your child that the area is off limits to them unless they’re with an adult.

Of course, natural bodies of water pose other risks. Shallow creeks are a slip and trip risk with algae-coated rocks and deceptively strong currents. Lakes, particularly when boating, can be a huge drowning risk. Proper safety precautions should be taken when allowing your children to play in the water.

For deeper bodies of water, be sure your child has a properly fitting life jacket. You may also want to be sure they stick to the shallows. For kids with mobility issues, avoiding creeks and streams with slippery rocks is best. One slick rock can result in severe trauma to the head. Instead, find a place that boasts sandy river shores. Sand bars and beaches are a great place for all kids to play. They are relatively safe and have the added benefit of sand castles.

Utilize a Campground

Federally maintained campgrounds are a safer option for kids with special needs. They have clearly marked paths, other people, restroom facilities, and a smaller chance of your child getting lost. Though they are well-groomed, campgrounds still offer your child the chance to get fresh air and spend a few days outside the home. Many of these campgrounds will also have maintained trails for safe, easy hiking trips.

Be Vigilant About Sun Protection

Overheating, dehydration, and sunburns are a very serious concern during the summer season. It is important that your child does not spend too much time in direct sunlight, particularly without sunscreen. Apply sunscreen a half an hour before your kids go outdoors, even when the skies are cloudy. Be sure to reapply it every two hours or more if your child is playing in water.

You should also offer your kids water, not soda or sports drinks, every half hour to prevent dehydration. The excess sugar found in many popular drinks can be detrimental to your child in many ways, though dental health is the primary concern unless a child is on a special diet to help manage their condition. For children who have limited motor skills, you should find or set up a shaded area for them to enjoy.

Camping is fun for children and parents alike. Escaping the busy schedules of daily life to relax in nature can be mentally and emotionally beneficial. However, for parents of kids with special needs, leaving the safety of home can be a little nerve-wracking. The thought of spending a night or two outside can leave your mind reeling with the fear of all the things that could go wrong.

Fortunately, provided you stay in an established campground, it is very likely that your child will be both safe and happy for the duration of your camping trip. Avoid dangerous bodies of water, stay on top of sunscreen and water breaks. Above all, take some time to relax; parents need to relax and have fun too.

[bctt tweet=”How to have a blast #camping with your #specialneeds child! ” username=”embracespectrum”]

About our guest author:

Sean Morris is a former social worker turned stay-at-home dad. He knows what it’s like to juggle family and career. He did it for years until deciding to become a stay-at-home dad after the birth of his son. Though he loved his career in social work, he has found this additional time with his kids to be the most rewarding experience of his life. He began writing for LearnFit.org to share his experiences and to help guide anyone struggling to find the best path for their life, career, and/or family.

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