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Unique camp at Quantico's Exceptional Family Member Program.

This summer camp has been a true asset to families assigned to Quantico, however, all military families are not stationed at Quantico. There are many opportunities for military children with special needs to participate in exciting summer activities.

For parents of children with special needs, the camp experience can be exciting and a little nerve racking. Parents wonder: do they have adaptive equipment? Will the staff be able to meet my child's specific needs, or will they receive their medication? Families with special needs children require special places to have fun summer experiences. Sometimes, the right environment can be hard to find especially for military families. Military families have to consider factors that include if they are located on a base, serving at a remote location or will we be in the middle of a change of station move. One program that has created a positive summer experience for military youth with special needs is Quantico's Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP).

Marine Corps Base Quantico has a unique camp to meet the needs of military families with special needs. Children enrolled in the Exceptional Family Member Program and their siblings between the ages of five and 13 participate in an annual summer camp designed specifically for children with special medical and or educational needs. During this four-and-a-half day camp, 30-40 campers have a typical camp experience filled with crafts, outdoor play and group activities based on a theme. Past themes were "Nature's Wonders," which allowed campers to discover the wonderful world of insects, "Let's go to the Circus," which culminated in the campers performing a full circus for their parents and the Base Commanding Officer, and the 2012 theme is "Hot Fun in the Summer Time," which will focus on beach, camping and the carnival ending in an old fashion summer picnic and concert in the park by the Marine Corps Band.

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One of the unique aspects of the camp is that it is a partnering of several agencies. The camp is hosted by Quantico EFMP, but staffed by the entire Quantico EFMP staff, Physical Therapist, Speech therapist and Special Education Teachers from Quantico DODEA schools, Specialist from the Naval Health Clinic Quantico, staff members from the Quantico Child Youth and Teen Centers, and various staff from the Quantico Marine Corps Community Service team that have backgrounds in Nursing, Education or Psychology. The staff works with the campers during the school year, therefore they know what to expect and how to accommodate for each camper's needs. The campers' special needs are so diverse that campers are grouped according to age and ability with no more than six campers in each group and a camper to staff ratio of 6:3.

This is a camp where children don't have to concentrate on making things work so they can participate, but simply have fun! When they are playing, they are learning new social skills, how to work in groups and how to focus on instructions and don't realize it because they are having so much fun. Horseback riding and interacting with the Red Cross therapy dogs are among the campers' favorite activities.

The camp accepts siblings of the special needs campers to participate in the camp, which allow for an inclusive model. The positive aspect of this model is that gives the siblings a chance to see that there are many families like their family. Parents are thankful for all the camp offers because they have a chance to take their children to the same camp at the same time.

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"My son has severe asthma," said Corrie Melear about her nine-year-old son. "He is usually the last one picked on a team, so he really wasn't looking forward to being around all these kids here. Since he's been at the camp he's loved it though." "When we get home he wants to come back and he can't stop talking about all the fun things he did and the kids he's met," she said. "He's calling everyone here his friends. He told me I need to clean his camp T-shirt so it can be clean for tomorrow. The camp gives him an opportunity he wouldn't otherwise have," Melear said. "It builds his self esteem. I'm really happy I brought him here."

Quantico's EFMP Summer camp has been a true asset to families assigned to Quantico, however, all military families are not stationed at Quantico. There are many opportunities for military children with special needs to participate in exciting summer activities. While the choice to send your child to camp is indeed a process, the process should be fun and informative, filled with good opportunities and lots of information sharing from all parties involved. The key to having a great summer experience is early planning, choosing the right camp for your child, and accessing available resources.

Proper planning is important in making the most of your child's summer experience. Most summer camps and activities are advertised at the beginning of March. It is important that families research what activities are available and apply early because most camps have an application process, deadline dates and limited availability. When you apply, ensure you complete the registration and application process clearly and completely and make sure the camp sends you some form of a confirmation or acceptance packet detailing the information and preparation you will need to make in advance of bringing your child to camp. "Making Camp Work for your Child" is one article from the National Resource Center on proper planning for summer camps.

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During your research, you will find that there are a variety of camps and activities to choose from. Finding the right camp can often be a daunting task. Choosing the right summer activity is the most critical part, as this determines your child's happiness in their summer camp experience. Take time to figure out what types of summer activities you want your child to participate in. Remember that camps and summer activities should be a learning experience that fosters independence and positive self-esteem, but should also be a healthy and fun experience for your child. Keep in mind that the right activity for your child may not be a traditional day or overnight camp. Your child may enjoy and benefit more from participating in day trips such as museum visits, swim classes, fishing trips, bowling, reading clubs, or even a day at the movie. Always consider your child's interest and what he/she wants to learn from the camp. Learn about the camp's daily routine, staffing, and support services. Consider if the camp offers training to staff on working with various disabilities, an onsite nurse, adaptive materials, wheelchair access and someone to serve as your contact who will talk with you about your child's needs before camp begins. Lastly, become familiar with regulations of the organization or agency that oversees the camp. "Discover Camp" by The National Center on Physical Activity and Disability, is a resource for parents of children with disabilities selecting a camp for their child for the first time.

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Once you have planned and selected your summer activities, now you need to research what is available for military families. Consider cost associated with the camp and where the camp is located. Camps such as Operation Purple Camp, Our Military Kids or Military Teen Adventure Camps are free or provide scholarships to attend the camps. Military Home Front and www.wrightslaw.com are just a few other resources that offer directories and lists of summer activities and camps for military families. Your local Exceptional Family Member Program office can also offer information on activities, as well as host many activities that are designed specifically for families with special needs.

"The importance of the camp opportunity for any child can be a critical one, as camp is not just a place, but it is also an "experience" complete with activities learned, friendships made, stereotypes broken, and memories that, for many, last a lifetime. This full experience, when done well, supports and enhances the physical, emotional, social and developmental growth of children. This is true for all children, including children with disabilities and chronic illnesses". (Discovery Camp)

With proper planning, choosing the right activity or camp, and researching available resources summer can be a wonderful experience. ENJOY CAMP!

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EFMP 2012 Quantico Summer Camp

This year's MCCS Quantico Summer Camp is scheduled for 18-20 June, 0800-1200 at Ashurst Elementary School and 21 June, 1000-1200 at Lunga Park, New Cedar Area.

The MCCS Quantico Summer Camp theme is Hot Fun in the Summer Time. We will be exploring the exciting activities of summertime! This half-day camp is intended for children enrolled in EFMP and their siblings from the ages 5 to developmentally 13 years of age.

Applications are now available at the EFMP office or online www.quantico.usmc-mccs.org/EFMP.
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Title Annotation:United States Military Section
Author:O'Neil, Monique
Publication:The Exceptional Parent
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 1, 2012
Words:1480
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