Program Outcomes at Adventure-based Camps for Youth With Disabilities

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American Camp Association National Research Forum Abstracts


In 2005 the American Camp Association (ACA) published the first large scale national research project assessing the youth development outcomes of children who attend day and resident camps in the summer. Children between the ages of 8 and 14 years from 80 ACA accredited day and resident camps participated in the study. Results indicated that the camp experience was a positive influence on youth development in four domains: positive identity, physical and thinking skills, social skills, and positive values and spirituality. In addition, evidence showed that growth at camp was maintained over a six month time period. Specifically, respondents indicated that camp helped them make new friends and helped them get to know other campers who were different from them. ACA acknowledged that camps included in the study did not include children with developmental disabilities, and suggested that future research investigate experiences and outcomes within this population (ACA, 2005). Camps for children with chronic illnesses have been established to enhance self-esteem, assist with normalizing attitudes to illness, and promote skills in self-care of the disease (Walker & Pearman, 2009). These camps offered traditional activities, but allowed all children the opportunity to participate regardless of their illness. Needs of children with chronic illnesses included socialization, independence, and self-concept. In another study, Devine and Dawson (2010) administered the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale on the first and final days of a camp for children with craniofacial differences, and again six weeks after camp. Results showed that campers experienced an increase in self-esteem and social acceptance. Children who have physical differences may experience discrimination, body image issues, and difficulty with peer relationships. Therefore, therapeutic camps are a place for children to be in a comfortable environment with other children facing the same life challenges. This purpose of this study was to determine whether youth development outcomes at three residential camps that serve children with serious illnesses, disabilities, and life challenges varied based on gender, years at camp, overall satisfaction with the camp experience, and populations served. The study expanded on previous research by using the Positive Youth Development (PYD) framework to evaluate outcomes at camps for children with a range of disabilities.


Link to abstracts: https://www.acacamps.org/sites/default/files/resource_library/2016-National-Research-Forum-Book-Abstracts.pdf

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