By Taylor and Bailey Frerking
Summer camp season is right around the corner, so Parenting Children with Special Needs asked Taylor Frerking, 16, and her twin sister Bailey, of Kansas City, Mo., what advise they have for others thinking about going away to camp. Often a more nerve-wracking experience for parents than kids, the key is finding a camp that caters to the needs of your child. If you are looking for some ideas, each year KCKidsFun.com, a local website, provides a list of special needs camps.
Taylor is a sophomore at Park Hill High School. She has developmental delays, low muscle tone, and a provisional diagnosis of autism. This will be the third year she has attended Camp Barnabas, a Christian summer camp dedicated to providing summer camp experiences to people with special needs, physical or intellectual challenges, and their siblings. The camp has two locations—Teas Trail in Purdy, Mo., and Barnabas on the Lake in Shell Knob, Mo. Each week throughout the summer camps are designed to serve individuals with specific diagnoses. Learn more at campbarnabas.org.
How old were you the first time you went to camp? What things did you think about before you went the first time?
Taylor: I was 12. I thought about how fun it was going to be. I knew there were lots of activities because I heard about it from other people. I was not nervous.
What do you think parents worry about?
Taylor: They worried about missing me. They missed me a lot.
What’s the best thing about camp? What’s the worst thing?
The best is you get to do lots of activities—swimming, archery, rifles, ropes course. The worst is getting up early. We go to bed late at 10 o’clock and get up early at 6:30.
What advice would give other kids who aren’t sure if summer camp is right for them?
Taylor: You should go to camp because it’s very fun, and meet people.
Have you met a special friend at camp?
Taylor: I met Mary. We only see each other at camp. We were in the same cabin for two years.
Bailey, who is developmentally typical, participated in the sibling program at Camp Barnabas the first year she went. According to the camp website: “The sibling program is for those special family members who have not only observed the struggles of a brother or sister with a disability or chronic illness, but have often set aside their own dreams in exchange for being caregiver and friend.”
The second year Baily served as a Barnstormer, a program for 14- to 16-year-olds. This year she has applied to be a one-on-one camper mentor.
What is a Barnstormer?
Bailey: We serve lunch and help clean the dining hall, bathrooms, and cabins. But we also have free time to go to activities with the other campers. This year I’ll be assigned to a specific camper to be their mentor.
What would you tell families who are considering camp for the first time?
Bailey: They should do it. There’s always people around to help you. There are mentors and cabin staff. There is also medical staff and all the medicines that someone might need.
What’s best and worst about camp?
Bailey: Best are the activities, the pool, the ropes course and the theme night parties. Worst is getting up early and when it rains.