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Inclusionary practices.

A nationwide survey of mainstream camps serving all youth

There is a strong movement in the United States to fully include people of all abilities in society. Although most past research has been conducted in the public schools, inclusion needs to be studied in all settings where people with and without disabilities share activities. Camp professionals widely agree on the benefits of residential camp but until lately little empirical research has been conducted to substantiate these beliefs.

The American Camping Association, in conjunction with the Institute for Career and Leisure Development, conducted a nationwide survey of mainstream camps. The survey was designed to determine the extent that campers with and without disabilities jointly attend and participate in camp sessions and program activities, the disabilities and needs of mainstream campers, and camps' interest in evaluating and participating in related research.


The camps selected to participate in the survey were chosen from accredited residential summer camps that mainstream children and youth with disabilities. ACA mailed surveys to 162 camps nationwide to learn about the mainstreaming practices they employed during the summer of 1995.

Seventy-one camps from 26 states responded to the survey. An analysis of the 71 surveys reveals:

* 31 camps primarily serve campers without disabilities, but mainstream campers with disabilities into their summer residential camp programs. These camps operate general programs with sessions that include disabled and non-disabled campers.

* 24 camps primarily serve campers with disabilities. They also reverse mainstream campers without disabilities in their summer residential programs. These camps operate specialized programs with sessions that include campers with and without disabilities.

* the 16 remaining camps provided either incomplete or inappropriate information. They were not included in the study's data analysis.

Because the survey sought information from general camp programs that mainstream youth with disabilities, the survey analysis focused on the 31 camp programs that primarily serve campers without disabilities.

Major research questions and findings

How do mainstream camps serve campers with disabilities?

All 31 mainstream camps reported being inclusionary. Campers with and without disabilities generally attended the same camp session and participated together in the same program activities at the same location and time. Two of these camps had some sessions where youth with and without disabilities each participated as a group in separate or parallel program activities.

How do mainstream camps serve campers with and without disabilities?

Campers with and without disabilities participated in joint program activities in 164 out of 174 camp sessions conducted by the 31 mainstream camps. Of the remaining sessions, seven served only campers with disabilities and three served campers with disabilities in separate or parallel camp activities. [TABULAR DATA OMITTED] Furthermore, the camps' staff operated 162 out of 168 sessions listed. Of the remaining six sessions, five were operated by both camp and outside agency staff.

What camper characteristics and needs were present?

The total number of campers attending mainstream camps ranged from 40 to 456 per sample session, with a mean of 171 campers for all sessions. A larger percentage of femme campers attended camp sessions, comprising 68 percent of the mean percentage of participants. Campers ranged in age from 5 to 21 years, with a mean age of 7 for the youngest campers and 15 for the oldest campers.

As can be expected in mainstream programs, the majority of campers (91 percent) attending the camp sessions did not have disabilities. Campers with disabilities comprised 9 percent of the total population. Camps indicated that an average of 7 percent of campers with disabilities needed minor staff assistance (added guidance/support during some activities), while 2 percent required major staff assistance (one-on-one supervision during the day).

What were the most common types of disabilities?

In general, mainstream camps served campers with a wide range of conditions. Fourteen major disabling conditions, including three levels of mental retardation, were indicated for campers attending mainstream camps. The greatest percentage of mainstream camps served campers considered to be mildly disabled: attention deficit disorder (90 percent), learning disabilities (71 percent), and mild mental retardation (64 percent). A smaller percentage of camps served those with more severe disabling conditions: moderate/severe mental retardation (29 percent), deaf/blind (26 percent), autistic (23 percent), and traumatic brain injury (3 percent).

How were inclusionary practices incorporated?

Inclusionary practices for campers with disabilities were implemented by mainstream camps across 13 different program activities. All 31 camps included campers with disabilities in four program activities: meals, sports/games, campfire/evening, [TABULAR DATA OMITTED] and arts/crafts. Ninety-seven percent of camps included campers with disabilities in sleeping and 90 percent included them in fitness/hiking. With the exception of equestrian programs, at least 88 percent of camps offering a particular program activity were inclusionary in that activity. Fewer camps offered boating, fishing, ropes/challenge courses, and riding activities.

How do mainstream camps evaluate camper growth?

Sixty-one percent of the camps indicated that they utilize instruments for measuring camper growth in skills and attitudes; 77 percent involve parents in evaluating the same areas. Ninety-seven percent of the camps plan to continue mainstreaming campers with disabilities, and 100 percent indicated an interest in participating in future inclusionary practices research.

Survey Findings

Survey results confirm that the societal movement to include people with disabilities in various aspects of community life is also occurring in camps.

This first nationwide survey of resident mainstream camps indicates that ACA-accredited camps are actively including campers with disabilities in their summer programs. The study also helps identify issues facing the camp profession, such as mainstream camps' responsibility to serve campers with more severe disabling conditions and the role of specialized camps in the mainstreaming movement. A review of surveys from mainstream and specialized residential camps reveals that both groups offer summer sessions that include campers with and without disabilities. The sizeable return of surveys on the topic of mainstreaming practices from specialized camps indicates that they view their reverse mainstreaming efforts as bonafide inclusion models.

It is significant that was only able to target 31 mainstream camps; it may not accurately reflect nationwide inclusionary practices. Increased leadership and research efforts should be directed toward determining the most effective models of service for youth with disabilities. Various levels of inclusionary practices need to be studied to determine specific outcomes of mainstream camp experiences for all campers.

The Institute for Career and Leisure Development, in Alexandria, Va., is an agency with a successful history of conducting national research and training projects related to the leisure and job needs of persons with disabilities.


Brannan, S., Arick, J, & Fullerton, A. (1996). Executive report: The national camp evaluation project (NCEP). Alexandria, VA: Institute for Career and Leisure Development.

Cordes, D. (1991, May). Strengthening your mental muscles ... naturally: the mental benefits of camp. Camping Magazine, 63(3), 21-23.

Downs, P., & Williams, T. (1994). Student attitudes toward integration of people with disabilities in activity settings: A European comparison. Adapted Physical Quarterly, 11(1), 24-29.

Giangrceo, M. F., Dennis, R., Cloninger, C., Edelman, S., & Schattman, R. (1993). I've counted Jon: Transformational experiences of teachers educating students with disabilities. Exceptional Children, 59(4), 359-373.

Halliday, N. (1991, May). The social benefits of camp: Learning through small group experiences. Camping Magazine, 63(3), 16-20.

Peck, C. A., Donaldson, J, & Pezzoli, M. (1990). Some benefits adolescents perceive for themselves from their social relationships with peers who have severe handicaps. The Journal of the Association for Persons with Severe Handicaps, 15(4), 241-249.

Schleien, S., & Ray, M. (1988). Community recreation and persons with disabilities: Strategies for integration. Baltimore, MD: Paul Brookes.

Steve Brannan, Ed.D. is professor emeritus, special education department, Portland State University.

Joel Arick, Ph.D. is professor and head, special education department, Portland State University.

Ann Fullerton, Ph.D. is assistant professor, special education department, Portland State University.

Joyce Harris, Ph.D. is a statistical consultant for Harris Educational Consultants in Eugene, Ore.

All authors are professional researchers and consultants for the ICLD.
COPYRIGHT 1997 American Camping Association
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1997, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:survey of mainstream camps serving youth of all abilities
Author:Harris, Joyce
Publication:Camping Magazine
Date:Jan 1, 1997
Previous Article:The National Camp Evaluation Project.
Next Article:Building self-esteem.

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