Summer Camps for Kids with Special Needs

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Kids with special needs can have a blast at camp this summer! Here are some outstanding options in Tennessee.

Camp Ability
615-809-2632 • specialkidstn.com
Special Kids Therapy and Nursing Center offers Camp Ability to children with special needs ages 6 – 25. The seven-week camp takes place in June and July in Murfreesboro. Camp Ability allows campers to participate in interactive, social and fun environments. Camp counselors focus on each child’s abilities, finding ways for everyone to participate in activities. Registration — which begins this month — is first-come, first-serve and the camp fills quickly. One-week sessions are $100.

Camp Conquest
901-490-7164 • campconquest.com
This Christ-centered, week-long, overnight camp is for children ages 6 – 16 with developmental disabilities including autism, PDD, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy and others. An additional camp is available for ages 17 and older. Located in Cordova, participating children come from numerous southern states to experience making new friends, horseback riding, canoeing, rock climbing and more. Volunteer opportunities are available for typical kids, ages 13 – 16 interested in junior counseling.

Camp Discovery
615-504-1727 • jayceecamp.org
Tennessee Jaycees provides this camp to ages 7 and older with mental and physical challenges. This six-day camp in Gainesboro features hiking, music, games, sports, swimming, campfires and more. There are several sessions to choose from between June 5 – Aug. 5.

Camp Hope
615-349-5645 • vanderbilthealth.com/burncenter
This non-profit organization through Vanderbilt Burn Center provides a free week of physical and emotional healing for children ages 6 – 16 with burn injuries. The camp takes place July 20 – 23 at William P. Ridley 4-H Center in Columbia. Applications are available now at the website.

Camp Jump Start, Camp Rise and Sign & Camp Sign Me Up
615-248-8828 • bridgesfordeafandhh.org
The youth programs at Bridges serves deaf and hard of hearing kids from kindergarten through high school. Applications are now available for summer camps. Camp Rise and Sign (May 13 – 15) is held at Hillmont Camp providing deaf and hard of hearing children and siblings a weekend of games, camping and memory-building fun. Camp Sign Me Up (Level I June 13 – 17; Level II June 20 – 24) is designed to teach hearing students American Sign Language. Camp Jump Start (summer dates TBA) is for Bridge’s After-School Program which prepares kids for the return to school.

Camp Sugar Falls
615-298-3066, ext. 3330 • diabetes.org
A diabetes day camp for ages 6 – 12 with type 1 or type 2 diabetes. The camp takes place June 22 – 26 at YMCA Camp Widjiwagan and provides campers with a place to play, laugh, share and learn about diabetes management. The camp is already full, but applications are accepted for the wait list.

Deaf Camp
800-253-RICE • billriceranch.org
Brill Rice Ranch is a revival ministry in Murfreesboro that offers a free Deaf Camp for deaf children ages 9 – 19. The camp is offered in five different five-day sessions that take place June 12 – July 29 featuring trail rides, gospel messages in sign language, sport competitions, swimming and more.

Day Camp Program at Empower Me Center (pictured above)
615-453-0005 • empowermecenter.com
Located in Lebanon, this camp’s for ages 5 – 21 with mild to moderate physical, developmental or mental disabilities and takes place across three weeks in June and July. Offerings include sports, music and drama, arts and crafts, water games, nature and outdoor adventures, and more. Teachers and trained staff members help campers have a fun and controlled camp experience. The Empower Me Center aims to build a new state-of-the-art facility to serve the growing need for special needs family activities. Visit the website or the Empower Me Center on Facebook.

Easter Seals Camp
615-292-6640 • easterseals.com/tennessee
Youth summer day and resident camps held at YMCA Camp Widjiwagan for children with disabilities ages 7 – 16. With a 1:3 camper-to-counselor ratio, kids enjoy canoeing, archery, ropes activities, nature activities, sports, swimming and more. Easter Seals campers join regular Camp Widjiwagan campers to have the same camp experiences. There are several five-day sessions to choose from that take place May 23 – July 29. Registration is now open.

Summer Fluency Day Camp
615-936-5016 • vanderbilthealth.com/stutteringcamp
Vanderbilt’s Department of Hearing and Speech Sciences offers this day camp to children ages 8 – 18 who stutter. The goal is to help kids become more confident communicators with the help of speech and language specialists. The camp runs June 6 – 10 from 8:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. and is held at the Vanderbilt Bill Wilkerson Center in Nashville. Space is limited.

Zooper Heroes Camp
615-833-1534, ext. 160 • nashvillezoo.org/zoo-camps
The Nashville Zoo offers a summer camp, Zooper Heroes Camp, for children with special needs ages 8 – 14. This day camp takes place July 5 – 8 at the zoo allowing campers to meet animals in the classroom, visit the exhibits, make crafts, play games and more. An adult must also accompany each child (at no extra cost).

Kiera Ashford is associate editor of Nashville Parent and mother of three.

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