Therapeutic Camps as Respite Care Providers: Benefits for Families of Children with Disabilities



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This study examines the utilization of a therapeutic summer camp for children with disabilities as a respite care provider for parents of camp participants. Interviews were conducted with nine parents, from seven different families of recent camp participants at Camp LIFE, a camp for children with disabilities located in Burton, TX. The interviews were qualitative in nature, and utilized Atlas.ti research software to guide the data analysis process. The findings centered on five areas: the daily life of a family with a disabled child, the respite needs of these families, the value of respite care in general, the value of respite as provided by Camp LIFE in particular (both while the child attended camp, as well as after the child returned home), the qualities of Camp LIFE that contributed to respite, and suggestions from parents for improvement of service provision. These findings suggest that, as has been found in previous research, raising a child with a disability is often difficult; however, this study found that none of the parents would opt to alter their situation, given the opportunity. It was also reported by parents that respite care is often hard to obtain (for a variety of reasons), but that it is a much-needed and desired service. In terms of Camp LIFE, the interviews showed that the parents did see the camp as a source of respite care, and that each family "did something" with the time their child was at camp in such a way as to maximize these respite benefits. This study is in agreement with an argument raised by previous research; that overnight therapeutic camps are a much-valued source of rest for many parents, and that without such respite, parents would report much higher levels of stress related to the care of a disabled child. Further research should be conducted which further examines the specific processes that allow parents to feel comfortable with obtaining respite from therapeutic camps, as well as research into ways to provide financial support and assistance to further the ability of these camps to provide such services.