Several years ago my best friend called me after she spent a week at a Joni and Friends family retreat, “You are coming next year,” she said, “It is the best vacation your family will ever have.”
This particular camp offers a week-long camp experience for families who have a loved one with a disability, whether it is a child, a spouse or a sibling. Everything in the camp is accessible, and a one-on-one helper is provided for younger kids and for adults who need it.
The following year, as we made plans to go, I filled out a detailed form for each of my kids with disabilities. Weeks before camp, I had a phone conversation with a coordinator so they could match each of my kids with a helper that could meet their needs. For example, my kids did not need to have a nurse as their helper, but other kids with medical conditions may require their assistant to have medical knowledge.
Related: It's Time to Upgrade Accessibility
The first day we arrived we were greeted by the camp staff and our helpers waited with posters they made for our family. For five days, these two women were part of our family. I did not have to feed my kids, they did. I did not have to chase my kids around, they did. I did not have to worry about behaviors or safety. I did not even have to go swimming with my kids if I did not want to because they did! It was indeed an amazing experience. Every afternoon I met with a small group of moms, my husband met with a small group of dads and my typical kid met with the other “sibs.” For the first time, my kids with disabilities were in an environment where there were several other kids with the same disability. It was so empowering for my daughter with cerebral palsy to see other people with cerebral palsy, from kids her age to camp staff.
After that week, we realized that camp was not only possible, but it could be a fun experience for our kids. A friend of mine told me about a camp for kids with Down syndrome her daughter has been attending since she was 10 years old. Another friend of mine, who is disabled, told me about the camp she attended growing up and how empowering it was to have that experience away from her parents as many other kids do. Plus, the experience of being in an accessible environment with your own community!
Unfortunately, there are not as many camps offered for kids with disabilities (or families) as there are camps for typical children, so these camps tend to fill up fast and early. Joni and Friends begins their registration in January.
To help you pick a program that works for your child or family, we compiled a list of different camps here in the U.S. At the top of the list are camps that are offered in multiple states. The rest of the list goes in alphabetical order by state. If there’s a camp we missed, let us know in the comments below.
Unless otherwise specified, these camps offer a “traditional” camp experience, meaning campers have access to typical camping activities such as swimming, canoeing, fishing, drama, archery, arts and crafts, nature-based activities, campfires, sports, etc. The camps are unique in that they incorporate skill building through play and activities. While not every camp offers every activity, these camps provide a robust and authentic camp experience for all.
We did not include the cost of each camp, as cost can vary even within the same camp based on age. If your child is on a state grant or a state waiver, it may cover the cost of camp, so make sure to ask your caseworker. Several camps offer scholarships for campers based on need, and a few are offered at no cost.
Pals: These are camps for youth and adults with Down syndrome. Some begin at age 14, others are for adults only. Camp Pals host sessions in Maryland, Massachusetts, Illinois, Ohio, Washington D.C., Maine, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and California.
Live Up: These camps are for adults with Down syndrome. Campers have a one-on-one helper. Live Up camps host sessions in Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, New York, California and Washington D.C.
Special Touch Camps: Special Touch offers Christian faith-based camps for people with intellectual and physical disabilities. All camps have full-time nursing staff. They offer sessions in Oklahoma, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Georgia, Ohio, Wisconsin and Arizona.
Lift Disability Network: Life Disability Network offers family camps in Florida, Missouri and Minnesota.
Cristo Vive: These are Christian faith-based family camps located in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Idaho, Texas, Alaska, Ecuador and Peru.
Easterseals: Easterseals is the largest provider of camping and recreational programs for children, adults, and families. It offers 30 camps nationwide in Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Maryland, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.
Joni and Friends Family Camps: Joni and Friends is a Christian faith-based family camp for kids and adults with disabilities. Those who need extra support have access to a one-on-one helper. Camps are available in New Hampshire, Michigan, California, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington, Alabama, New Mexico, Arizona, Tennessee, Ohio, Missouri, North Carolina, Nebraska, Indiana, Oregon and Minnesota.
Champions Special Ministries: This faith-based camp works by partnering with local churches to offer day camps for kids and adults with disabilities. It has sessions in Colorado, Arkansas, Texas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma.
Adam’s Camp: These camps offer intensive therapy, family support and recreation for children and teens with disabilities. It has locations in Colorado, Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
Camp Abilities: Camp Abilities is a sports camps for children and young adults who are blind, deafblind or have multiple disabilities including visual impairment. One-on-one coaching is provided. Sessions are available in Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Texas, Utah and Washington.
Camp Smile: This camp is hosted by United Cerebral Palsy. It is designed for campers ages 5 to 50. Each week they serve campers of similar age groups, so check out the weeks available for your child’s age group.
Camp ASCCA: This is an Easterseals camp designed for campers ages 6 to adult. It offers week-long and weekend-only camps. It also has family camp options.
Hope Heals: This is a Christian faith-based family camp that’s for the whole family. The camp provides scholarships so that families can attend for free.
Arizona Magic of Music & Dance: This is a summer theater camp for children and teens with physical and cognitive disabilities. It also offers a two-month theater and care program for adults with developmental disabilities.
Camp Civitan: This camp offers weekend programs throughout the year and week-long camps during the summer for children, teens and adults with developmental disabilities. The facility is wheelchair accessible.
Camp Aldersgate: This is a fully accessible outdoor camp for children and teens with disabilities. They offer summer camps, weekend camps and specialty camps.
Leaping Beyond Sports Camp: This is a day camp that provides access to adaptive sports for people with disabilities.
Camp Krem: This summer camp is for children and adults with developmental disabilities. In addition to its summer camp, Camp Krem offers a year-round respite program.
Whispering Winds: This is a Christian faith-based family summer camp. It offers a week-long program for kids with disabilities and their families.
Exceptional Needs Network Camp: This camp is specifically for campers ages 6 to 22 with developmental disabilities. Each camper has a one-on-one counselor.
Camp Harmon: This is an Easterseals camp for campers ages 8 to 65. Each counselor has only three campers. The camp also offers a week for family camp.
Colorado Lion Camp: This camp offers week-long summer camp sessions and weekend respite camps throughout the year for campers starting at age 8 to senior adults with various disabilities.
INSPIRE Adventure Camp: This is a month-long summer camp for youths and adults with developmental disabilities who are over the age of 5.
Camp Horizons: This camp offers two- and four-week camp sessions for children and adults with developmental disabilities who are 8 and older. During the summer, a special “Masters Program” is offered for campers over the age of 40.
Oak Hill Camp: Oak Hill is a camp for youth and adults with developmental, intellectual, physical and sensory disabilities, including visual impairments.
Children’s Beach House: This camp offers weekend camps throughout the year and summer camp programs for children with disabilities.
Down Syndrome Association of Delaware Summer Camp: This is a free day camp for children with Down syndrome, ages 3 to 13, and their siblings, ages 3 to 10.
Camp I Am Special: This camp is for campers with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Camp No Limb-itations: This summer camp is for children ages 7 to 18 who have limb differences or amputations.
Camp Braveheart: This camp is for children with congenital heart defects. They have two groups, junior campers between 7 and 13 years old and teen campers ages 14 to 17. The camp offers multiple outdoor activities.
Camp Imua: This is a week-long camp experience for kids with disabilities ages 6 to 16.
Camp All-Stars: This camp offers week-long day camps for school-age children with disabilities ages 4 to 21.
Camp Discovery: This is a week-long camp for children with chronic skin conditions. The camp is free for families.
Camp Cilca: Camp Cilca is a Christian faith-based camp that offers one session for people with disabilities of all ages. Campers may choose between a two-night camp or a four-night camp experience.
Victory Lane Camp: This is a four-day family camp for families who have kids with disabilities. Only one session is offered each summer.
Camp Riley: This is a camp for children with physical disabilities ages 8 to 18. The camp is 100 percent accessible and has both indoor and outdoor activities.
Camp Courageous: This camp offers week-long day camps for children, teens and adults with disabilities as well as year-round respite weekends. Campers are separated by age.
Special Camp: This camp offers a one week only Christian faith-based camp for people with disabilities.
Hidden Acres Wonderfully Made: This camp is a Christian faith-based family camp.
Camp Kidz Rock: This is a day camp for kids on the autism spectrum.
Courageous Kids: This camp is for children with chronic illnesses or medical conditions ages 7 to 16. The camp is free of charge.
MedCamps: Medcamps offers week-long camps divided by condition and age. Some weeks are designed for kids with intellectual and developmental disabilities, others weeks for kids with physical disabilities or kids with diabetes. These camps are for campers ages 6 and up.
Louisiana Lions Camp: This camp offers eight sessions during the summer for children with disabilities, cancer, diabetes and respiratory conditions. The camp is hosted by Lions Club and offered at no cost to campers.
Camp Strive: This is a day camp for tweens, teens, and young adults, ages 11 to 24 who have a developmental disability. They offer sessions during the school year and summer.
Camp CaPella: This is a summer day and overnight camp for children and adults with disabilities who are 5 and up.
Camp Greentop: This camp offers a variety of camping options from family camp to travel camps for adults, where campers go on “away” trips all over the U.S. They also offer traditional camps and outdoor/tent camps. The age of campers is dependent on the camp. Some experiences require campers to be 16 or older.
Camp Promise: This camp is for campers who have neuromuscular conditions and who are 6 and older. This camp is offered free of charge.
Camp Sunshine: This is a Christian faith-based camp for campers ages 12 to 50 who have developmental disabilities.
True Friends: This camp is for people with physical and developmental disabilities as young as 5. The camp offers traditional camp options, respite care and equine therapy.
Camp Knutson: This camp offers one summer session for campers with Down syndrome ages 10 to 21.
Ironwood Springs: This is a wheelchair sports camp for campers ages 12 and up. They offer one week of overnight camp, where campers are coached by Paralympic athletes. It is for people of all athletic abilities.
Camp Barnabas: This is a Christian faith-based camp for children with disabilities and chronic illnesses and their siblings. Campers are 7 and older. The camp has a fully staffed medical facility with doctors and nurses and campers have a one-on-one counselor.
Wonderland Camp: This camp is for children 6 and older, who have disabilities. It offers week-long camps and weekend camps as well as weekend retreats for moms.
Camp Encourage: This camp is for campers on the autism spectrum between the ages of 8 and 18. They also have “peer-model” campers of the same age.
Camp Courage: This camp is specifically for adults with disabilities.
Joshua Center Summer Camp: This camp is for people with neurological disorders. Campers can register as soon as they’re entering third grade.
Big Sky Bible Camp: This is a Christian faith-based camp for people with disabilities. The camp is raising money to build a new facility that is fully accessible.
Sunshine Nevada: This camp offers three sessions — one for adults with disabilities, one for children and teens with heart conditions, and one for children and teens on the autism spectrum. These camps are free of charge.
Wediko Summer Program: This camp is for kids between the ages 9 to 19 who have social, emotional and behavioral challenges.
Camp Inter-Actions: This is a camp for children 8 to 15 who are blind or visually impaired.
Zebra-Crossings: This camp is for children with rare and chronic conditions. It also offers family camp options.
Camp Starfish: This is a camp for children who have anxiety, ADHD, learning disabilities, autism, pervasive developmental disorders, oppositional defiance disorder, anger problems, sensory processing and integration disorder, depression, bipolar disorder, inflexible explosivity, reactive attachment disorder and other extra needs. There is a one-to-one staff to camper ratio.
Camp Oakhurst: This camp offers two-week sessions for youth with developmental disabilities up to age 25 and sessions for campers with autism of all ages.
Camp Fatima: This camp offers week-long sessions for children and youth with disabilities between the ages of 5 and 21. The camp is free of charge and each camper has their own counselor.
Camp Rising Sun: This camp is for kids on the autism spectrum and their peers who are 13 to 17 years old.
Southern New Mexico Adaptive Sports Camp: This is an adaptive sports day camp. Their sessions run for three days each.
Camp Ramapo: This camp is for children with disabilities ages 6 to 16. Each camper is assigned their own counselor. Length of camp can be between one to nine weeks in length depending on what is best for each camper.
Marvin’s Camp for Children with Special Needs: This camp is for children on the autism spectrum between the ages of 6 and 21. They offer a six-week session and a seven-week session.
Camp Reece: This is a residential summer camp for kids with disabilities. Children need to send in copies of their IEP and psychological evaluation to be considered.
Southampton Fresh Air Home: This is a residential summer camp for children with physical disabilities ages 8 to 18. The shortest program is seven days. The other two sessions offered are three weeks long.
Camp Ramah in the Berkshires: This is a Jewish faith-based camp for kids with disabilities.
Talisman Camps: This is a camp for children on the autism spectrum or with ADHD who are between the ages of 6 to 22.
Victory Junction: This camp offers year-round camp options for medically complex children. Their sessions are divided by conditions and are for children between the ages of 6 and 16.
Camp Grassick: This camp offers six summer sessions for kids and adults with disabilities.
Stepping Stones: This is a day camp for children 5 and older who have disabilities.
The Arc: This is a day camp for children ages 4 to 22 who have disabilities.
Camp Aldersgate: This camp offers five camp sessions for children ages 6 to 18. Each session is dedicated to children with specific disabilities including autism spectrum disorder, muscular dystrophy, spina bifida, diabetes, heart conditions, arthritis, kidney disorders, cancer, bleeding disorders and asthma. The session for children with autism lasts six weeks. All other camps are a week long.
Camp Barnabas: This is a Christian faith-based camp for children 7 and up with chronic illnesses and disabilities as well as their siblings. Campers have a one-on-one counselor.
Camp Clap Hands: This is a three-day summer camp for children ages 8 to 18 with disabilities.
Mt. Hood Kiwanis Camp: This camp is fully accessible for children and adults with disabilities. All campers have a one-on-one counselor.
Camp Yakety Yak: This is a day camp for kids 5 to 15 focused on social skills. They also offer a day camp option for those between 16 and 21 to work on social skills in the workplace.
Camp Jaycee: This is a residential camp for children and adults with disabilities.
Camp Lee Mar: This is a seven-week co-ed camp for campers ages 7 to 21 who have moderate learning and developmental disabilities.
Camp Starfish: This camp offers several camp programs for kids with social, emotional and learning differences, including a day camp for ages 5 to 12 and an overnight camp for teens ages 7 to 17.
Camp Wannagoagain: This camp is sponsored by the Autism Project. It’s a two-week summer camp for children, teens and adults on the autism spectrum.
Camp Lakey Gap: This camp is open to autistic people of all ages. It has a low staff to camper ratio and places emphasis on building self-esteem, finding friendships and exploring new hobbies and activities.
Camp Twitch & Shout: This is a one-week residential camp for young people ages 8 to 17 with Tourette’s syndrome.
Jaycee Camp Hope: This camp is for kids over the age of 7 who have intellectual disabilities.
Camp Rise Above: This camp offers day camps for children with disabilities and conditions such as heart and kidney diseases, craniofacial differences, sickle cell anemia, brain tumors, epilepsy, Tourette’s syndrome, traumatic brain injuries, asthma and cerebral palsy. This camp is free of charge.
Camp Gilbert: This camp is geared specifically for kids ages 8 to 18 who live with diabetes.
Young Life Capernaum: This is a Christian faith-based camp open to high school-aged students with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Camp Ability: This is a Christian faith-based day camp for young people with disabilities between the ages of 6 to 25.
Camp CAMP: This camp is run by Children’s Association for Maximum Potential and offers opportunities for people with disabilities ages 5 to 50 and their siblings.
Charis Hills Camp: This is a Christian faith-based camp with sessions for kids 7 to 13 years old and teens ages 14 to 18 with learning differences and social difficulties.
Camp Summit: This camp is for people with disabilities of all ages. It has separate sections for people with physical disabilities, developmental disabilities and dual-sensory loss.
Camp Blessing: This Christian faith-based camp is open to people with intellectual or developmental disabilities of all ages. It is a fully accessible residential camp.
Lions Camp: This camp has three different sections — kids with physical disabilities (ages 7 to 16), children with Down Syndrome (ages 12 to 16) and kids with type-1 diabetes (ages 8 to 15).
Camp Kostopulos: This camp is hosted by the Kostopulos Dream Foundation, and is for people with disabilities of all ages.
Camp Ta-Kum-Ta: This is a family camp specifically for kids ages 7 to 17 who have or have had cancer and their families. This camp is free of cost.
Bart Center Summer Camp: This camp is for people with disabilities of all ages. It offers adaptive skiing during other times of the year.
Camp Daybreak: This camp is for kids with disabilities between the ages of 8 and 11.
Camp Gonnawannagoagain: This camp is hosted by FACT and is open to young people on the autism spectrum between the ages of 6 and 30.
Warm Beach Camps: This is a Christian faith-based day camp or overnight camp for people with disabilities ages 15 and up. All campers are assigned a “buddy.” The camp limits some conditions and behaviors, including those with diabetes and active seizure disorders.
Camp Gizmo: This camp is hosted by West Virginia Early Childhood Training Connections and Resources. It is a five-day camp that teaches caregivers and professionals how to use assistive technology. A limited amount of slots are open to students with disabilities to help train attendees.
Christian Disciple Farm: This is a Christian faith-based family day camp for young people ages 3 to 21 with disabilities and their families. The camp is located on a farm.