All About Camps
Camps have many benefits for children, particularly those with a bleeding disorder. They can help a child become more independent, learn more about bleeding disorders, and learn how to take control of his or her life rather than the bleeding disorder controlling the child's life. Camp is a chance for children to be with and learn from others who face similar challenges.
The majority of summer camps for young people with bleeding disorders have a common goal—to provide the children with a typical camp experience—a place where everybody is treated the same and where possibilities, not limitations, are emphasized. However, they differ in how they accomplish that goal. Some focus on health education and advocacy; others have the let kids be kids philosophy and do not broach the topics of infusion, self-sufficiency, or weightier issues, such as preparing for a career and obtaining health insurance.
Finding the Right Camp for Your Child
Here are some tips to help you choose a camp:
- Know what to look for in a camp:
- Look for a coeducational camp that includes siblings; remember, bleeding disorders affect the entire family
- Check that Hemophilia Treatment Center (HTC) staff participate fully in camp life
- Pick a camp that offers not only recreation but also opportunities to build self-esteem and teach successful strategies for living with a bleeding disorder. From: Rite of Passage. HemAware.March 2007.
Camp: How to Prepare
Throughout North America many camps are designed to serve young people and their families who are affected by bleeding disorders. Preparing your child and yourself for his or her going away to camp starts long before you place your child on the bus to camp.
If you and your child are new to the camp experience, it's important that you discuss and understand what will happen during your child's time at camp. Both you and your child need to know how long you'll be separated from each other, that your child will be the responsibility of another person, and that your child will have to follow the rules of the camp and the directions of the counselors.
Discussing these and other aspects of camp life early will help you and your child prepare for a great camp experience!
The majority of the camps for people with bleeding disorders are organized by a Hemophilia Treatment Center (HTC) and a local bleeding disorders organization. Discuss any questions or concerns you may have with those organizers, or if you know the camp that your child will be attending, talk to the camp director.
Preparing for Camp
If the camp has a Web site, it probably has valuable information you can look at during your search. If you're unable to visit, you and your child will get to see photographs of the camp and, perhaps, the camp counselors.
Here are some basic questions you should have answered (check the camp's Web site for answers, if possible):
- What are the rules and responsibilities of the children attending?
- What sports, games, and activities does the camp offer?
- What should children bring—or not bring—to camp?
- What is the camp's general daily schedule?
The camp and the medical staff will provide you with a list of what to bring to the camp. Be sure that you follow that list closely. Needed items and supplies may not be available if your child doesn't bring them with him or her. The list will include items ranging from clothing to all medications.
Before your child attends camp, you will need to fill out a registration or application form. Complete the forms honestly, especially the health form. The camp organizers need this information to help ensure a safe and fun camp experience.
To help make your child's camp experience go smoothly, here are some considerations you might keep in mind:
- Campers who enjoy their time at camp the most have spent time away from home previously
- Consider how your child might handle being away from home for a few days, a week, several weeks, or more
- You should follow the rules and regulations regarding contacting your child at camp; most camps allow communication via e-mail or snail mail
- You should mark absolutely everything with your child's name
- Homesickness is a real emotion your child may experience while being away; have an honest discussion about the feelings they may experience
What a Bleeding Disorder Camp Offers
A large focus of bleeding disorder camps is to give children age-appropriate independence so that they can learn to be accountable for their own lives.
Some ways that camps accomplish this is by:
- Teaching self-infusion
- Teaching life skills, such as leadership and teamwork
- Meeting other children with bleeding disorders
- Creating a feeling of belonging
- Helping develop the child's self-esteem
You may wish to prepare your child for this by introducing these concepts at home well before your child goes to camp.
While camps may vary slightly, the camp staff is there to create an unforgettable, positive camping experience for your child. They have put tremendous effort and years of experience into developing activities to promote group bonding, friendships, and personal growth.
Here are some activities that might be provided at your camp:
- Nature study
- Specially designed athletic activities
- Medical programs, including bleeding disorder education and self-infusion training
- Arts and crafts
- Challenge courses
- …And much, much, more!