by Hana Alanis

Summertime, and the living is easy…. Unless you’re a parent of a child living with a disability, summer takes on a different tone: one of apprehension.

What are we going to do every day? How do I make sure regression doesn’t happen? Will he have the same summer fun as his peers? How can I make sure he gets to be with his sister?

Did my questions overwhelm you? Or did they resonate with you because you too are a special parent?

Your school district may offer summer schooling for your child. This provides a chance for them to continue learning skills they’ve been working on all year, but again this only fills a tiny portion of time and still splits up your family.

So what is the answer then? Inclusive. Summer. Camps.

I am happy to say that there are programs across Arizona who have actively taken the step to promote inclusion through training, curriculum, and digital tool development. Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center (SARRC), Pal Experiences and Camp Civitan have already done the legwork for us here with through partnership and own programming.

Hopefully these options can prevent you from having to play disappointing phone-tag that ends in someone saying “well you could bring them but it’s on you if we cannot give them the right experience….”

Established in 1997, SARRC is an internationally recognized nonprofit that builds inclusive communities for individuals with autism and their families. SARRC is proud to partner with several summer camps in Arizona to support inclusive programs for campers of all ages. “An inclusive environment benefits all campers,” says Megan Mann, Senior Clinical Consultant at SARRC. “In addition to having fun in various camp activities, campers develop friendships, and may develop acceptance and compassion for each other. The positive outcomes impact everyone involved; campers, parents, staff and the community.” The Arizona Science Center, Children’s Museum of Phoenix, Phoenix Theatre Company, and more, including overnight camps, offer incredible experiences and unforgettable memories to campers in partnership with SARRC. Visit to see all the camps partnered with SARRC.

Inspired by a meeting with a family with autism on the train afterwork, Melanie Isaacs formed Pal Experiences with the mission to more successfully include people of all abilities in our community. Pal is creating a national network of Pal Places through the development of custom videos, digital guides, and on-site resources that enhance specific customer experiences for all guests, and particularly for families and individuals impacted by autism and developmental differences.

In our own sunny state, Pal has partnered with the Children’s Museum of Phoenix, the Arizona Science Center and the Phoenix Herpetological Sanctuary, all of whom offer amazing summer camp opportunities. Your family can know what to expect before you go by watching the Pal Videos, alleviating anxiety and stress for all. Because of Pal’s tools, my son has had many successful experiences of which would not have been possible before. With the Phoenix Herpetological Sanctuary, reptile lovers can enroll in the Reptile Encounters Camp and aspiring veterinarians can enroll in Vet Camp! Learn more online at

Have you heard of Camp Civitan? Since 1968, Camp Civitan is Arizona’s longest running disability focused summer camp that offers 15 acres of wheelchair accessible opportunity and programing for a wide range of intellectual disabilities and age groups. Camp Civitan runs weekly sessions from May through August, and even offers weekend camps throughout the year in the beautiful forested environment of Williams, Arizona. It’s an adventure in our own backyard! CEO Dawn Trapp explains that siblings age 13 and older can volunteer at camp to be with their sibling who lives with a disability. They’ve seen great success with their sibling themed camp sessions in the past and are rebuilding the program into an enriching opportunity to begin again in the future. Learn more about Camp Civitan at

If there is a camp you would love to take your child to but are not sure on their inclusive practices, you can always ask! Let them know about your amazing child and why they would love to attend that program. Share the kinds of services your child is used to receiving and ask what they would do to accommodate. Not feeling great about their answers? Then it is not the right fit.

Is there a great inclusive summer camp that we missed? Tag AZ Parenting on Facebook to share with us.

Hana Alanis is head of Creative Programming with Pal Experiences and manages design and marketing for Civitan through her company Up Late Designers. She’s an Arizona native and mother to three- her oldest lives with a disability.




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