It’s Never Too Early to Think About Summer: Part 1 A hands-on approach to summer activities for blind kids

Several boys with bamboo sticks

Here at APH CareerConnect we focus on getting ready for life after high school.  We offer lots of resources and webinars to develop pre-employment experiences and building employment skills. But we also realize that having a life of quality is about so much more than what job you have or what you do at work.  We know that recreation and leisure and social interactions are huge parts of living a satisfying, healthy, and fulfilling life. This week’s blog topic is about that – Recreation and Leisure. Summer offers so many opportunities to develop that critical expanded core curriculum (ECC) area. 

Growing up with a vision impairment definitely had its pluses. Living in a densely populated part of town, often summertime was filled end to end with opportunities to play, learn, and ultimately gain invaluable life lessons. Summer camp is where I learned how to roast marshmallows and walk a ropes course.  It is also where I and gaining confidence through Beeper Baseball, Goalball, and more.  Summer is when my spirits soared and my creativity thrived!  

Whether living in a big city, small town, along the coast or in the mountains, there are choices and options for blind youth and teens looking for something to do in summer, even this very summer.  

“But wait!”, you say “it’s only spring and summer is months away.”  

Spring is the time to start looking for summer programs. Many nonprofits and organizations offer affordable day-long and week-long outdoor activities for youth and their families. When diving into summer research, ask about camp scholarships and registration application information and deadlines. 

Summer Camp 

Summer camps for blind youth are offered in many pockets of the country. Local or regional Lions Clubs often sponsor weekend long to week long summer camps for blind and low vision kids and families. Often Lions camps will vary in length and activity offerings depending on location and available resources. Visit the Lions Clubs International website for information on regional camp offerings.  

Camp Abilities offers sports and exercise-focused camps for blind kids nationwide. Enchanted Hills Camp, a camp retreat operated by the LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired out of Napa offers summer and seasonal week-long camp activities including Music camp, Equestrian camp and Wood Working sessions. 

In keeping with the summer camp themes, both Guide Dogs for the Blind with their popular Camp GDB and Leader Dogs Summer Experience Camp offer both virtual and hands-on-dogs week-long camps. 

Braille Institute of America (BIA) has a large service area spanning San Diego and all of southern California north to Santa Barbara. Their programs emphasize daily living skills, socialization and academics. Self-confidence is stimulated through participation in physical activities such as rock-climbing, surfing, white-water rafting, choral groups and more. Braille Institute also sponsors national programs such as the annual Braille Challenge and Cane Quest

In Canada, CNIB offers Lake Joe, an outdoor lakeside camp program. They offer remote camp like events and in-person camp activities for youth and families. 

Summer Programs 

Often specialized schools for the Blind offer a variety of summer school and camps. Ranging from recreation, exercise, independent living skills, transition and post-secondary life readiness these programs integrate Expanded Core Curriculum (ECC) as a catalyst to learning and thriving away from home. Visit the Council of Schools and Services for the Blind at https://cosbvi.org/ to find opportunities near you. 

Each summer the NFB BELL Academy provides children with Braille and non-visual skills instruction through fun, hands-on learning activities. Several BELL Academy’s are offered across the US. For more information visit, NFB Bell Academy. 

For book-loving kids, the National Library Service for the Blind (NLS) and Bookshare.org offer categories of books for youth and teens. Escaping into a fantasy, fiction or jaw dropping page turner can also provide endless hours of fun. Check out NLS and the Bookshare summer reading list for kids.  Search the websites to learn about possible fun summer book challenges. 

Finally, for those looking for fun academic programming, APH’s ExCEL Academy offers online courses for youth and teens that are available during the school year and over the summer.  

Fun In And Around Town 

Your city or town, or one near you, probably has a zoo, aquarium, museums, state or National park, and theaters that youths and families can visit over the summer. Plan ahead, call ahead, let the staff or curators know to expect a blind guest or patron: Ask about accommodations. Theaters can offer special seating closer to the stage. Sometimes they may be able to offer a tour or descriptions to help enhance the visitor’s experience. Many parks, aquariums, and zoos with wildlife education programs offer opportunities to explore pelts or other items to help blind and low vision visitors safely touch and learn about wildlife.  

As a kid with low vision, my summers were some of the best childhood cherished memories. I give a lot of the credit to my parents who expected me to get out of the house, explore the world, and have the same experiences as my sighted classmates and peers. Making friends both sighted and blind also opened up opportunities each summer. Going to camp gave me a lot of skills I was able to use to hang out with kids in my neighborhood. Because I learned about low-vision strategies at camp, I knew that with the help of a few adaptations, I could play ball with kids from my school and in my neighborhood.  

Additionally, having the chance to experience and touch the world in ways that blind kids can only do so at museums with hands on some of the exhibits and artifacts, to hands on lessons of wind surfing and touching the costumes of cartoon and circus characters at theme parks and circuses 

Outside of these offerings, you and your family can plan great day trips and vacations that can be made accessible with a little advanced planning and a few phone calls. From helping prepare a family picnic and heading to the lake (or beach or nearby park), to visiting a nearby or national museum where tactile exhibits can be found, learning combined with fun and play will round out an unforgettable summer. 

Make sure to check out the next installment of our It’s Never Too Early To Think About Summer: Part 2 – Summer Jobs. 


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