Summer is right around the corner. For many of us, that means warmer weather—and a change in the schedule when your child gets out of school for summer vacation. If you have a Deaf child, you might be wondering what your options are for summer activities.
Luckily, inclusive recreational camps are available for children who are Deaf or hard of hearing.
When searching for camps, you may come across the acronym DHH—this refers to “Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing.” This acronym signals a special education program for children who need non-auditory accommodations. However, a camp doesn’t have to have this specific designation to be a good fit for your child!
Read on to learn about the benefits of summer camp, how to find the best fit for your child, and a list of resources for you to begin your search.
The Benefits of Summer Camp for Deaf Children
Summer camp can be enriching for all children! But there are many benefits specifically for kids who are deaf or hard of hearing. Consider the following:
Camp can be a great way for deaf children to join the Deaf community! For many, it may be their first experience being around other Deaf people. This can be incredibly empowering. I’ve written before about Deaf authors Raymond Antrobus and Sara Novic—for both of these amazing individuals, something magical happened when they were able to accept their Deaf identities. Raymond and Sara didn’t come to terms with their identities until adulthood, but what a gift it could be to help Deaf children see themselves at a young age.
Younger Deaf children may also have the opportunity to interact with older Deaf children or Deaf adults, which may result in a mentoring relationship.
Camp experiences can help children build confidence and leadership skills. Some camps may teach self-advocacy skills specific to the Deaf community. In a recent blog, I spoke with author Mickey Carolan—he mentioned that Deaf children often deal with bullying for being different. Camp may be a place where your child doesn’t stand out as different, but it may also be a place where they can learn how to stand up for themselves and believe in themselves.
A study from the National Deaf Center (2019) states that “Youth with disabilities benefit from peer role modeling in summer camp environments.”This role modeling can be very empowering for your Deaf child, giving them skills they will take back home and to school with them in the fall.
That same study from the National Deaf Center (2019) also shows that kids (Deaf or hearing) who attend camp generally “demonstrate stronger environmental stewardship.”
Certain summer programs may have the option to specialize in an interest (such as math, programming, or art), which can strengthen special skills and move your child toward career development.
For older children, camps may be centered around job readiness or college preparation. These can be especially helpful for a Deaf teenager.
If your child finds a camp they like, it can be something they return to year after year, building summer vacation memories and potentially lifelong friends.
What Type of Camp is Right for Your Child?
There are a few different options for summer activities. Some programs are for the child alone; some include the whole family.
Some programs incorporate American Sign Language (ASL); some focus on cued speech, which teaches a child to understand spoken speech through visual cues, such as speech reading (formerly called “lip reading”). There are even camps specifically for Children of Deaf Adults (CODAs)!
Whole-family camp programs may be helpful if you’re new to the Deaf community and seeking education for yourself as a parent. Some programs provide parent training and American Sign Language (ASL) immersion for beginners. I suggest reviewing the National Deaf Center’s list of 2023 programs for an overview of which programs offer family options.
Only you and your child can decide what’s right for your family!
The “right” program may vary based on your child’s age, needs, and family dynamic. Look into a few options, reach out to camps, and ask questions to figure out if a camp will meet your child’s specific needs.
When you’re considering programs, you may want to ask the program staff about their accommodations. What is the staff’s experience with ASL? What are the expectations for communication? Will there be captioning on their media during the program? What is the student-to-staff ratio? Will there be any reporting sent back to the parents about the child’s camp experience? Don’t be afraid to learn more before committing to a program.
If you’re concerned about the cost of a summer camp, keep in mind that there may be scholarships available. Ask your camp organizer, local Lions Club, Kiwanis, or other service organizations if they offer any financial support.