Very often we are asked what our camp population is. Is it a camp for kids with autism? Is it a camp for kids with Down syndrome? Is it a camp for kids with Asperger’s syndrome?, etc. At Camp Lee Mar we have never been a camp for one type of child. We are a camp for many types of children that all fall within the mild to moderate range of developmental challenges.
Our focus has never been on a particular medical diagnosis. What is important to us is that we are the right summer program for your child. Can your child benefit from our unique, fun summer program and gain independence at camp? To determine this we interview every child to make sure Camp Lee Mar is the “right fit”. The interview is conducted in person, unless the family lives far from camp, as many of our families do. If this is the case, we will do a SKYPE or Facetime interview.
Over the years we have had situations in which a family has inquired if we are a camp for kids with Down syndrome. This is usually because their child has Down syndrome and they are looking for a camp that will understand their child’s needs.
In other cases parents are inquiring if we have any campers with Down syndrome as if to imply that some campers with Down syndrome may be “lower functioning” than their child. Our answer is that we have children with many different “labels” including Down syndrome, but all are in the mild to moderate functioning range of abilities. The reality is that every child at Camp Lee Mar brings their own set of strengths to share and challenges to work on during the summer. We group our campers so that they can share their strengths, work on social and emotional maturity and form real lasting friendships. Yes, understanding specific needs in relation to a child’s medical diagnosis is important, but what is absolutely critical is seeing every child as an individual, not just a diagnosis or “label.”
As time goes on this is happening less and less, but it still takes place occasionally. Camp Lee Mar is a camp for kids with Down syndrome, kids on the autism spectrum, kids with developmental challenges, etc. We work very hard at camp to get away from labels. We feel our campers are, in many ways, no different than other kids, and they have so much positive potential. Our unique program is set up to draw out all the positive potential our campers have available. Our play and learn model takes each camper’s IEP, and we tailor a program for the camper. The program is part academic, part speech, part daily living skills and part traditional camp activities. In doing so, we are able to give each camper a truly growth-producing experience.
Written by Ari Segal, MSW
My name is Ari Segal, I am the director at Camp Lee Mar. I am married, and we have three incredible children. My oldest child happens to be developmentally challenged and was a camper at Lee Mar (He aged out at 21 and is now 22.) I have been with Camp Lee Mar since 1993. I also direct a year-round, supervised, vacation program for adults, 18 & up, with developmental challenges called The Guided Tour.