The Importance Of Disclosing Allergies & Special Needs For Summer Camp

Written By: PAW Team | October 27, 2019

When school is out and summer is in, you are still your child’s most amazing advocate!


Every parent wants the best for their child, and they want to see them thrive and have the best summer ever! When you have a child with allergies, medical needs, or special needs, you are constantly advocating for their right to full inclusion in age-appropriate activities, and it can be exhausting. Spending time championing your child during the school year may be a given, but why is it so important to continue your incredible advocacy on behalf of your child during the summer, the time of year that is intended for recharging before the next school year? Disclosing your child’s allergies, medical needs, or special needs to their summer camp is the best thing to do to guarantee that your child has an exciting and memorable camp experience while also ensuring that you have the peace of mind of knowing that they are safe and fully supported by their camp teachers, directors, and counselors.

Disclosure ensures that the adults who have the privilege of working with your child have the information necessary to recognize any symptoms of distress as early on as possible. As we know, everything ranging from diabetic or epileptic seizures, to difficulty breathing due to allergen exposure, and even to sensory overload can be a dramatically different experience for a child when caught and tended to as early as possible. All reputable summer camps have protocols in place and ready to implement in a moment’s notice if a child begins to experience an allergic reaction, medical symptoms, or physical, mental, or emotional discomfort as it pertains to a special or medical need.

When camp teachers and counselors are in the dark about a child’s needs, in the event of a distressful reaction, valuable time is wasted determining the root cause and appropriate remedy. However, when your child’s needs are known by camp staff, quick, informed action will go a long way in preventing the situation from escalating. Taking the small yet essential step in disclosing your child’s needs to their camp will allow everyone to focus on your child’s best summer ever!

Most camps have their own practices and procedures regarding important health disclosures, but if you are looking for a way to initiate communication around this topic with a prospective summer program, here are our recommendations for getting the conversation started:


     1)  Research & Make Contact:

     When thinking about signing your child up for a summer camp experience, the exciting first step is deciding where to send them, and what activities they will enjoy! While researching summer camp opportunities, keep an eye out for policy pages and/or forms that may outline their protocol for children with allergies, medical needs, or special needs. If after a few minutes of poking around the website, you cannot seem to find anything, don’t sweat it! Most camp offices can be contacted by phone and are happy to answer any questions that you have about how the camp will support your child’s well-being and meet their needs. You can even view this as your opportunity to interview potential summer camps to ensure that they have a policy and protocol in place and make sure that they are amazing enough for your child to have a fun, safe, worry free summer!


     2)  Disclose On Camp Registration Forms:

Most camp registration forms have a section for the parent to indicate that they agree to disclose a child’s special needs or allergies if they have them. The parent will then follow-up with the camp office via phone or email to formally disclose.


     3)  Follow Up With the Camp Office:

At the time of disclosure, the camp office will ask for a detailed letter outlining the nature of the child’s needs or allergies. In the case of an allergy, the letter will explain the specific allergen, the severity of the allergy, any symptoms of an allergic reaction, any other pertinent details, as well as step-by-step instructions on the actions to be taken by staff in the event of an allergic reaction. The letter does not have to be too long, but it should thoroughly describe how to respond to any degree of distress at camp. In the case of campers with special needs, a similar letter outlining their needs, in addition to a doctor’s letter stating that the summer camp curriculum is appropriate and safe for your child will be required. All required paperwork should be submitted at least 2 weeks before the first day of camp because, in some cases, parents may need to provide a nurse or an aide, which requires additional time to finalize. These letters will be passed on to the on-site camp directors so that they are aware of every camper’s unique needs.


     4)  First Day of Camp:

On the first day of camp, arrive at least 15-20 minutes before the start of camp activities to introduce yourself and your child to the on-site camp director and chat about your child’s allergies, medical needs, or special needs. If your child will need any sort of medication or Epi-Pen, give it to the director for safe keeping—they’ll keep it in their easily accessible first aid kit for the duration of camp. It’s also very helpful to review your child’s health plan with the camp director once more to make sure that everyone is on the same page and is prepared for any potential scenario.
Disclosing special needs or allergies to your child’s summer camp makes sure that the safety of your child and every child at camp are at the heart of all activities. Talking to the camp office and camp director will allow you to work together to put a plan in place for how to best serve your child at camp. At the end of the day, nothing is more important than your child’s well-being, and sharing important health information will not exclude your child but rather will ensure that your child is immersed in the least restrictive and most inclusive environment possible!

PAW’s award-winning camps for kids ages 5-14 include Musical TheaterFilmmaking, Guitar Magic, Photography, Rock The Mic, Stage F/X Makeup, Debate Camp & Camp LOL!

Trusted for over 30 years, PAW has 10 camp locations to choose from including; Brentwood, West LA, Manhattan Beach, RPV, Redondo Beach, El Segundo, East Pasadena, Old Town Pasadena, Northridge, and Studio City. For camp information call us at (310) 827-8827 or check out our website at

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