Choosing a Summer Camp


Choosing a summer camp can be a challenge. Consider the following questions to help you start this process. Start by thinking about why you want to send your child to camp and what your child wants.

  • If your child has never tried an outdoor camp that has a variety of activities, consider this before choosing a specialty camp. Outdoor camps are great at helping kids try new things, build self-confidence, make new friends, and learn about the world around them.
  • However, if your child really wants to develop specific athletic skills, then explore sports camps. If her passion is more focused into science, music or drama, consider camps or programs designed around those interests.
  • If your child has not gone to camp before or is nervous about going, start with a day camp. It may help her get used to the camp experience first.
  • Consider her seizure type and frequency and how this may be affected by overnight camp. For example, if your child’s seizures occur only at night or when sleep-deprived, make sure you work with the camp staff so they can manage seizures appropriately. If in doubt, starting with a day camp may be the best solution.
  • If your child has trouble with new situations and has never attended camp before, a day program may be the way to start.
  • See if she can attend sessions or camps with a friend. While ideally you want your child to make new friends, going with a buddy may make the transition and separation a lot easier.
  • If sleep deprivation is a major trigger, consider a day program, or work carefully with your child and the camp counselors to prevent sleep deprivation at an over-night camp.
  • If stress is a trigger, start slowly with a day camp or make sure you and your child attend camp orientation – this will make the transition less stressful for everyone.
  • Share a list of your child’s triggers and how they are managed with the camp staff ahead of time. If you aren’t sure about triggers, talk about these with your child’s doctor or nurse. It may help you know what to look for and what to do.
  • Parents often worry about what will happen if seizures occur at camp. Review your list of safety concerns with your child’s doctor or nurse to find out how realistic these are.
  • Use this information as you consider what type of camp your child should attend or what safety precautions may be needed.
  • Look at Staying Safe at Camp for more information.
  • If your child has difficulty talking about or coping with seizures, a camp for kids with seizures may be just the right setting.
  • If seizures aren’t a big problem, let him choose the camp based on primary interests and comfort level.
  • Keep in mind that even children whose seizures are well-controlled can benefit from giving and getting help from others in similar situations.
  • Seizures affect everyone in the family, including parents! It’s important to look at how you are coping and what worries or concerns you may have.
  • Children can easily pick up on their parent’s anxiety, which can make the camping experiences more difficult for them.
  • Look at how the camp staff communicates with parents and how they deal with homesickness, separation or medical problems that arise.
  • Parents are sometimes hesitant about sending their children with epilepsy to camp. If the camp has appropriate staffing and medical supervision, it might be a good time to let your child get a taste of independence. Children will surprise you on how much they can accomplish when given the chance.
  • Letting camp staff know about your child’s seizures and how to respond is crucial – not only will this help staff to manage routine seizure issues, it can also help them be prepared to prevent seizure emergencies.
  • Make sure you've developed a seizure response plan and update this before your child goes off to camp. Then read about Preparing Camp Staff for Seizure Management.
  • Having support from your child’s health care team can make all the difference in the world.
  • Schedule a meeting as soon as you can with your child's doctor to review plans, seek input on medical treatment and safety concerns while at camp.
  • Allow plenty of time to get camp forms completed.
  • If your child is on the ketogenic or other type of diet for epilepsy, find out how meals are prepared and if meals need to be sent in.
  • If your child may need to be given Diastat or another medication at times of changes in seizures, make sure that staff can do this in the camp setting and that there is a place for your child to recover.
  • If your child needs to rest or needs help walking after a seizure, make sure there are places and people who can provide this.
  • If your child has frequent seizures or additional diagnosis such as ADHD, learning issues, developmental delay, these are the best choices. The main advantage of these camps is the medical supervision. These camps are staffed with doctors and nurses who know about seizures. Camp counselors also receive basic training in seizure safety.
  • Another advantage is that children and teens with seizures find themselves in a situation where the child or teen can meet and interact with others who have seizures and realize they are not alone.
  • Overnight and specialty camps can be quite expensive. However, scholarships might be available locally, through the local Epilepsy Foundations and private foundations. Or look into camping programs sponsored by organizations you attend. For example camps sponsored by YMCAs, churches, and Boy and Girl Scouts are usually more affordable for members.

Your answers to these questions will help you know where to start in choosing a camp for your child. Hopefully, they will also highlight other areas to look into and help you prepare for your child’s summer fun.

While the focus of this section is helping your child succeed at summer camp, don’t forget to pay attention to your own needs and those of the rest of the family. Consider how you can make summer time fun for all and take advantage of the respite time that camps offer parents.

Check our list of Epilepsy Camps associated with local Epilepsy Foundations. Contact your local Epilepsy Foundation to learn about camp scholarships too.

Authored By:

Steven C Schachter, MD, RN, MN

Reviewed By:

Joseph I. Sirven, MD | Patricia O. Shafer, RN, MN | Patricia M. Dean, ARNP, MSN, CNRN

on Monday, March 12, 2018


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