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Our Community Needs This Now


Too many children with moderate to severe developmental delays and /or intellectual disabilities who also exhibit moderate to severe maladaptive behaviors do not have access to the behavioral help they need when school is not in session. There are only two summer camps in Manatee County that serve this challenging population. As a result, many parents, guardians, and caregivers are forced to stay home during the summer as they cannot afford the specialized care these children need to thrive.


Manatee County has approximately 50,200 students. According to the CDC about 1 in 6 children have developmental disabilities which means over 8,500 children in the county may need extra help when school in not in session during the summer. About two-thirds are considered to have moderate to severe delays and two-thirds of those exhibit behaviors such as aggression towards others or they are self-injurious, engage in property destruction, have toileting challenges or elopement (running away) {see appendix for a further description of these behaviors}. Approximately 3,700 children in Manatee county need specialized behavioral help that typical summer camps are not equipped to provide, we estimate over 1,000 of them are elementary-school age.


It takes specialized behavioral training and often one-on-one staffing to provide a safe, fun, educational and nurturing summer camp experience for this challenging population. It is cost-prohibitive for most summer camps and most families. Currently there are only two summer camps in the county that are staffed and trained to serve these 1000+ Elementary school-aged children who may exhibit these behaviors.

· Foundation for Dreams & Dream Oaks Camp

· Southwest Florida Easter Seals Summer Camp

Combined, both existing summer camps enroll less than 100 children per summer.


Most of the remaining children with these behaviors either attend a summer camp that is ill-equipped to provide for their needs or they stay home for the summer.


Either option often results in regression from their school Individual Education Plan (IEP) goals, an increase in maladaptive or distressed behaviors, and parents who cannot work or put their jobs in jeopardy because the ill-equipped summer camp cannot handle those types of behaviors and call the parent out of work several times during the summer.


The impact on parents or caregivers are illustrated in these following two studies concerning families living with children on the autism spectrum.


According to Autism and Health: A Special Report by Autism Speaks, it is estimated that on average, it costs around $60,000 a year and 1.4 to 2.4 million across a lifetime to care for someone with autism. The majority of these costs are in special education and lost parental income. The need to find and sustain year-round employment is intensified for families and caregivers of children on the autism spectrum. Summer months present unique challenges for these caregivers as school is out and available respite services are extremely limited.


According to an article published in June 2019, by The Center for American Progress, titled, “When Parents Can’t Find Summer Child Care, Their Work Suffers”, working parents identify finding summer care a “logistical and financial headache.” One of the most notable findings was that in at least 57% percentage of families, one or more parents make a job sacrifice during the summer. Within this article, many parents reported challenges related to caring for children with developmental and intellectual differences. It goes without saying that summer job sacrifices among parents and caregivers of children with behavioral challenges is most likely significantly higher.


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