Special Needs Inclusion

2017 Inclusion Program


Applications for summer 2017 are now closed.

To be put on an waitlist, click here. If you are not sure if your camper would be considered part of the inclusion program, please contact us.

What is our philosophy?

  • We believe that every child can succeed, every child can participate, and every child can make friends. We believe that inclusion is good for everyone – kids with and without disabilities, families, staff, and our community!
  • Since 2012, through a generous 3-year grant from the National Inclusion Project, Camp Shelanu has implemented the Let’s ALL Play program model for inclusion of campers with special needs.National Inclusion Project
  • In 2015, we are at the end of our funding from the National Inclusion Project. Fundraising to support the program will come from individual donors and program revenues.

Who is a good fit for the Inclusion Program?

  • Campers age 5-11 (ages 11-14 for Camp Sabra weeks).
  • Campers with many kinds of disabilities are welcome. The largest proportion of campers in the inclusion program the last few years have been on the autism spectrum, but we have also supported campers with hearing and vision impairments, cerebral palsy, Down Syndrome, ADHD, sensory processing disorder, and others. Our building and pool are fully wheelchair accessible.
  • We prioritize the safety of all of our campers. If a child is a threat to self or others, or cannot participate in our program safely even with extra support from our staff, Camp Shelanu may not be able to accommodate your child.
  • We do not provide one-on-one staffing. Campers need to be able to change clothes, eat, and toilet independently. While inclusion staff give individual support when campers need it, each inclusion staff person serves 2-4 campers, often in different groups, and campers need to be able to participate in activities without an inclusion staff person for most of the day.
  • If your camper has a physical, developmental, or behavioral concern (e.g., ADHD, aggressive behavior, etc) and you are not sure if he/she would be considered as part of the inclusion program, please contact us. We can help determine if there are accommodations or supports that would benefit your child.  In general, any child with an IEP, 504 plan, Functional Behavior Assessment and/or a Behavioral Intervention Plan would be considered part of the program.

What kinds of services or accommodations are available?

  • All counselors are trained on our inclusion philosophy and on making each group inclusive. Inclusion staff float among groups to provide support to campers when and where they are needed –each inclusion staff person serves multiple campers/groups.
  • We plan our programming with the campers in the inclusion program in mind. Many of these adjustments benefit ALL of our campers, such as balancing competitive activities with cooperative ones, providing options, and giving simple and clear directions.
  • We plan supports on a case by case basis. Examples of supports for campers have included:
    • Visual, and sensory aids (picture schedules, timers, fidgets, noise-cancelling headphones)
    • Information ahead of time – schedules, touring the building, meeting staff, social stories for drop off, etc.
    • Behavior management plans and reward charts
    • A quiet space campers can choose to go to for brief breaks, scheduled breaks in the day away from the group
    • Staff support with instructions, rules, etc.
    • Help with transitions, transitioning before the group
    • Arranging time and space for outside OT/PT/speech providers to work with campers during the day
    • Communicating with teachers or therapy providers at end of summer to help with school year planning
  • We strive to have campers with special needs participate as fully as possible with typically developing peers. We call it the “aid and fade” model – staff give support where needed and then allow campers to continue to participate as independently as they are able.

How do I sign up?

  • Timeline:
    January 3 – Applications open for new and returning campers (online application will be found here)
    January 15 – Applications due for new and returning campers
    January 20 – Decisions returned
    January 23 – JCC Member registration opens – members may register for the weeks we are able to accommodate
    February 1 – General registration open – may register for the weeks we are able to accommodate
  • The application asks for demographic information, information about your camper, and requests for which camps and week you would like to attend. We will make every effort to accommodate as many campers as possible for as many weeks as possible within our capacity to serve campers safely and effectively. Returning campers will be given priority.

How will we plan for my camper?

  • You will fill out the online health and information form that all campers complete. There are no additional forms. Our Inclusion Facilitator, Assistant Inclusion Facilitator, or Camp Manager will be in touch with each family by email, phone, and/or in person to gather more information about your child, discuss plans for support at camp, and answer any questions you have. This typically occurs in May.
  • If your child has an IEP, 504 plan, Functional Behavior Assessment and/or a Behavioral Intervention Plan, we will request copies. We can also speak with teachers, OT/PT/Speech therapists , or other people who work with your child if you think it would help us better serve your camper or there are things you are working on in school/therapies you’d like for us to reinforce at camp.
  • Staff can also meet with you during the program to make adjustments to support strategies.

Who are the Inclusion Staff?

  • Our inclusion staff are specifically hired to work with children with special needs. They have backgrounds in special education, or a related field, and/or other life experiences that provide them with the necessary skill set. Additional training is provided and required for all inclusion staff.
  • All counselors, not just inclusion staff, receive training in inclusion.
  • All of our staff must participate in an application, interview, and background check process.

What kind of communication can I expect?

  • Communication plans are also on a case by case basis! Some families prefer email, some prefer phone, some prefer to touch base at pick up – we try to do what is best for each family, within staff’s capacity.
  • Please remember that in general, no news is good news!

What if my child has behavioral issues at camp?

  • We will work with each camper and family to be as proactive as possible through support strategies, program accommodations, positive behavioral management strategies, and redirection. Behavior challenges will be documented and shared with the family. If your child exhibits aggressive behavior that is harmful to staff, other campers, or themselves, your child may need to be picked up immediately, asked to stay home until a new plan can be put in place, or asked to leave the program. We will work with a child as much as possible to ensure a successful experience.
  • If you or the camp staff feel that Camp Shelanu cannot adequately support your child or your child is not able to participate safely, we will meet with you discuss the situation, and we will refund your tuition prorated for any days attended.
  • Campers in the inclusion program are subject to the same behavior contract as all campers at Camp Shelanu. Click here for more details.

Still have questions?

  • We are happy to talk with you! Contact Director of Engagement Madeline Seltman at mseltman@levinjcc.org or 919-354-4938.

What are families saying?

  • “Having a successful inclusion experience for our son also makes us, as a family, feel like we are included in the larger community.”
  • “My child also progressed as the weeks went on and clearly benefitted from spending more time with his normal tracking peers.”
  • “My son’s success at camp this summer has been due largely to the incredible attention everyone at the JCC paid to ensuring his inclusion in every activity… we know that everyone at Camp Shelanu wanted him to succeed, to grow, and to have fun.”
  • “We have had a tough time finding a camp that would be able to meet his needs. I couldn’t imagine I would be lucky enough to find a camp that would meet my older son’s needs and be a great experience for his younger brother too.”
  • “We can’t thank you enough for opening your hearts and doing the hard work necessary to include kids like mine and all the other children with ASD and other special needs in your camp. We can’t thank you enough for the fantastic inclusive camp experience!”

How can I help?

  • Click here to donate, or contact Director of Engagement Madeline Seltman at meltman@levinjcc.org or 919-354-4938 for information on corporate sponsorship or other ways to get involved.


For more information about BRIDGES, the JCC’s initiative for people with special needs, click here.