Updated: Aug 3
Updated August 2023 with feedback from our community on the past summer!
It’s Winter in the Bay Area - cold weather, dark evenings, and rain. It’s also the time to start planning your child’s summer!
Regardless of what path you choose for your 2e kids this summer, remember to focus on their strengths and interests - this is a time for them to explore and grow in ways that the school year often can’t afford. Often, students don’t get to spend time on their strengths and interests during the school year, so summer is a great opportunity to do just that. Camps, internships, mentorships, and independent projects are all great options.
Finding camps which can support your twice-exceptional (2e) and neurodivergent (ND) child - while also fitting into your commute and your other summer plans - can often be extra-challenging. We’ve gathered this list of camps that have been recommended and/or researched by our REEL parent community. We hope this list is a helpful starting point for you as you consider summer camps for your 2e children.
(Please note, though, that REEL does not endorse any camps and is not responsible for any individual’s experience. Have a camp you think we should add? Please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
SILICON VALLEY ND FRIENDLY DAY CAMPS
Athena Academy Summer (Palo Alto) & Charles Armstrong Summer (Belmont)
“Both of these schools run fun summer camps for dyslexic students.” - A.K.
City of Palo Alto Summer Camps (Bay Camp, Zoo Camp, MakeX, many more)
“My kids loved the small groups and immersive, hands-on activities at all of the science camps. An instructor and several helpers provide plenty of support. They get to delve deeply into their passion areas. I’ve also heard great things about the art and drama, etc camps but haven’t tried them yet.” - Y.V.
"Palo Alto Zoo science camp was great for my kindergartener. Shoutout to Jennifer who was running the camp classes and she was an amazing leader and super inclusive, informed, and kind and respectful to my 2e and non-2e boys."
Curiodyssey Summer Camp (San Mateo)
"Before the camp started, they hosted an information night on Zoom meeting, providing a lot of information to parents. They also reached out to parents who identified their kids with special needs during the registration process. At the drop off on the first day, I saw the camp teacher printed out my email with their own comments to get fully prepared. They have daily check in with me at pickup and sincerely take my suggestions on how to work with my son. On the last day of the camp, the kiddos had great presentations with their own made posters." - C.Z.
Decathlon Sports Club (Woodside and Los Altos)
“We’ve had a lot of luck with Decathlon Sports Camp for my high energy ADHDer. They are a long running family run camp with a high camper-to-counselor ratio. They’ve been especially high-touch with my family’s extra needs in the last few years, going the extra mile to make sure my kids are matched with loving experienced counselors and checking in frequently with me for feedback.” - C.P.
FANWAR LARP Camp (Palo Alto)
Ed note: This camp runs weekly throughout the year as well.
"This is the camp for all kids who love to LARP and role-play. It's Dungeons & Dragons brought to life. My son and his friends can't get enough." - A.K.
ID Tech (Stanford and various other locations)
Ed note: Check out their sleepaway options as well!
"My son LOVED his three one-week sessions at ID Tech this summer. Completely rocked it. Seeing the other kids there, I'd say at least half of the ones in his classes seemed to be on the spectrum so the instructors must be used to it." - L.L.
"My 2e son had a fabulous time during his week of coding camp. He really seemed to be with 'his people' and would come home and code for hours after camp ended." - A.K.
"My son attended the Stanford location of ID Tech for the first time this summer. It was a week term. It was a solid experience in terms of being able to communicate his needs ahead of time. His counselor seemed really engaged. I found the lunch buffet in the cafeteria and access to a marketplace a great way to help my son experience more independence (e.g. deciding what he eats, and budgeting his allowance) with some scaffolding in place." - S.T.
Galileo (Bay Area, Southern CA, Chicago, Denver, Seattle)
“Very hands-on camp with different themes each week. Art, science, and active sections daily. Non-competitive. Emphasizes creativity and experimentation. High quality counselors and helpers. Good ratio. There is a rah-rah portion in the morning that may not be suitable for all kids. Allowed us to bring an aide.” - Y.V.
"My kids like Galileo Summer Quest. Choice has been key for my kid doing well at camp, and Galileo let them pick their own area (ex. my kid wanted to learn to sew)." - D.W.
“Activities are fun, creative, and mostly non-competitive games. They are more flexible than most camps - they want kids to try everything, but if a kid really doesn’t want to do something after trying it, they will usually accommodate.” - L.L.
Kidizens (Los Altos)
"My son has asked to return to this camp several times now over the past few years with him also attending its past summer camps and a spring break camp. I especially found the lead counselor, Donald, this past summer to be inclusive and engaging." - S.T.
Maker Nexus (Sunnyvale)
“Wide variety of maker space camps including woodworking, metalworking, 3D printing, D&D, Arduino, and more. Small groups with an instructor and helper provide plenty of support. Amazing equipment and freedom to be creative.” - Y.V.
Marine Science Institute (Redwood City)
“My 2e and gifted children loved this science camp when they were in elementary school. The staff is friendly and overall the camp feels relaxed.” - A.K.
"After the first day, the camp director identified my son's needs. After checking with me, she immediately took action and assigned experienced staff members to work with my son and provided him the breaks he needed. This is the first time he finished the camp without getting kicked out. It means so much to him. I am so grateful!" - C.Z.
Stanbridge Academy Summer Camps (San Mateo)
"My 2e son thrived in this environment without incident. And made FRIENDS!!!! It is a major relief to me to know he's in a safe and supportive environment."
Steve and Kate's Camp (Various Bay Area locations)
"Steve and Kate's lets each camper decide exactly which activities they want to do. It was a good fit when my kids were young. However Steve and Kate's only works if they pick a site with outdoor space. A few summers it was great - for instance at Encinal School, with all the classrooms and outdoor space. I'd say learning what the location looks like is very important, in addition to the content itself!" - D.W.
"Steve and Kate's camp in Walnut Creek has been great with our kiddo. He is also 11 years old, and he gets bored and overwhelmed easily. The camp allows him to select his activities and the days he wants to come. They have made a huge effort to understand our kiddo and make his experience a good one." - D.P.
TechKnowHow (Various Bay Area locations)
“Great camp for tinkerers, budding engineers, and LEGO lovers! Counselors were able to work with my son even though he needed extra support reading some of the instructions.” - A.K.
Tinkering Camp (Half Moon Bay / San Francisco / San Rafael)
Ed note: In past years there has been a sleepaway camp option; the overnight camp is unfortunately not happening in summer 2023, but the day camps are running.
“Tinkering Camp is the summer program of Brightworks School. It is an amazing hands-on building camp which my 2e son has loved for many years.” - A.K.
"This camp has lots of 2E kids, and more of an even gender balance than other science/builder/coding camps we've tried." - M.K.
Tribal Wisdom Academy (Los Gatos)
“I learned about this camp on a Facebook group for Bay Area ND and gifted kids. My kids totally loved it! The husband and wife couple who run it are great.” - A.K.
Wheelkids (Palo Alto, plus other locations)
“Good quality counselors and programs, worked well with our ND kids.” - L.L.
ND FRIENDLY SLEEPAWAY CAMPS
“Where quirky campers thrive. Akeela campers are boys and girls completing grades 3 – 10 who are excited about a camp experience that supports their social growth. Many have been diagnosed with Asperger’s, NVLD or a similar neurodiverse profile. At Akeela, they truly belong and find lifelong friends.” - Akeela website
“Big property in Vermont with a lake. Co-ed. More for ‘rule followers’ - do not want to deal with refusals or oppositional behaviors. 3 periods in the morning of preselected activities, then each week they choose what they want to do for the other 2 periods in the afternoon.” - L.L.
“As the kids age, they can check out ‘Beyond Akeela’, which aims to prepare them with the life skills they need to live independently and/or on a college campus. We haven’t gone ourselves but have heard good things.” - C.T.
Altitude (Santa Clara)
Ed note: This camp also seems to have a day camp option.
“Altitude provides year-round camping experiences for participants entering 6th through 12th grade with social cognitive challenges including: verbal and nonverbal learning disabilities, ADHD, Asperger’s, and high functioning autism. We build social skills, independence, and self-confidence to prepare our participants for the transition to young adulthood, future relationships, and the rest of their lives.” - Altitude website
“This is an outdoorsy, swimming, hiking, crafting camp. You can do an intake interview with the person who runs the program, and she will answer all of your questions so you can weigh whether it would be a good fit for your kiddo. The woman I talked to did know the term 2e and seemed to really want the camp to be a place that would work for my daughter. We didn’t end up going, but it may be worth looking into if you’re looking to try out a camp experience that isn’t too far from home, since it’s right here in Silicon Valley.” - C.T.
Camp Sequoia (Pennsylvania)
“Camp Sequoia is a supportive overnight camp for exceptional young men ages 7-17 and exceptional young women ages 10-16, focusing on the unique needs of boys with ADHD and those working on social or life development skills.” - Camp Sequoia website
“My son who has ADHD and social anxiety went to Camp Sequoia. He was 17 at the time but it was the best experience of his life and I only wish I had discovered it when he was younger. The director, Brian Lux, understands 2e kids.” - C.E.
Hidden Villa (Los Altos Hills)
Ed note: This program has day camps too!
"My son had a successful time at the Hidden Villa Residential (sleepaway) camp. They really do aim to be inclusive. They didn’t schedule a call with us beforehand per se, but I took the initiative to call the director and he really listened. At dropoff I could see they had printed all the forms and the counselors had really read them and were already familiar with everything I mentioned. Although the camp is mostly group-activities rather than individual-choice-activities, they allowed my son to opt out of things he didn't want to do - for example, he played cards most days instead of swimming. They seemed really flexible. Whatever they did, it worked for him and he had a good time there." - L.L.
Summit Camp (Pennsylvania)
Ed note: We heard from our community that this is an outdoor camp that may accept neurodivergent kids. We're not sure, but it might be worth checking out.
“Sleepaway Summer Camp for youth that have social and emotional learning challenges, any age from 8 years to 21 years.” - Summit Camp website
Talisman (North Carolina)
“We provide specialized camp experiences for young people ages 6 to 22 with autism spectrum disorders, ADHD and/or other learning differences.” - Talisman website
“This camp has a large variety of programs, for ADHD and autism (or both). The programs range from 1-4 weeks. They can deal with some refusals/oppositional behaviors as long as the child does pose a safety concern to themselves or others.” - L.L.
“Timbertop Camp for youth with learning disabilities and special needs is a Wisconsin overnight summer camp designed for kids that think and learn differently. Youth campers have been identified by their School District as needing extra help for a learning disability or special need. Specific learning disabilities or special needs may include: OHI, ADHD, ADD, LD, SLD and Dyslexia.” - Timbertop website
“Extensive intake process. Can deal with behaviors except for elopement. Structured activities in the morning, free afternoons at the lake. Farm animals!” - L.L.
Bridges Academy Summer
Ed note: Bridges Academy does not yet have its 2023 summer program offerings available. To get a sense of what they offer, you can view last year’s courses here: https://2ecenter.org/product-category/summer-2022/
“Bridges Academy is a LA-based 4th-12th grade school for 2e learners. They run a summer program as well, which is offered both online and in person at their campus in Studio City, CA. My 2e son loved the Dungeons & Dragons class he took online in this program during the height of COVID, and my gifted son enjoyed a debate class online that year as well. The teachers all understand gifted and 2e kids and the environment is supportive and fun.” - A.K.
Young Scholars Academy
“Young Scholars Academy is an online enrichment program for 2e kids. They have classes for kids all year around, including summer. My son is currently enrolled in an after school ‘wacky history’ class, which is one of his interests. This is a great community of like-minded families and 2e kids, but they have to enjoy meeting virtually, something which can sometimes be challenging for some of our 2e kids (mine especially!)” - A.K.
“Crescanova is a new nonprofit organization that runs online programs for gifted elementary school aged students, including course options over the summer. They have worked with 2e learners, too!” - C.T.
PRE-COLLEGE PROGRAM CONSIDERATIONS
A plethora of pre-college programs for high schoolers exists on college campuses. Examples include UC’s Cosmos Program, Emory’s Pre-College Program, and University of Connecticut’s Pre-College Summer - but these are just a few among many (including Brown University, Stanford Summer Humanities Institute, Columbia University, Washington University, Loyola Marymount - there are so many!). The programs on college campuses are either offered directly by the college or by other organizations who host programs or camps on college campuses (such as Johns Hopkins CTY, Great Books, iDTech and Summer Springboard). While none of these options appear to be directly geared toward 2e kids, these programs provide the opportunity for a high schooler to go very deep in an interest area while having the chance to live on a college campus. A few key questions to consider when looking at these programs:
What accommodations in the learning and residential program might they make? Will teachers be flexible in allowing students to use the supports that help them to learn and participate (i.e., a quiet space to work, headphones, movement breaks, etc.)?
Are they run by the college or an outside company? Either way, does the organization running the program have experience with neurodivergent students?
Does the schedule allow for downtime? Can students opt out of extracurricular or social activities if desired?
How many kids will be involved in this program at any given time? How many students will be in each class? What is the instruction to student ratio?
What are the dining options? How are food allergies accommodated? What options do they provide for vegetarians, vegans, etc.?
What weekend activities are required? Can a child stay on campus rather than participate in a weekend activity, if they prefer? What is the adult supervision in that case?
For our older kids, summer can be a great time to volunteer and get involved in the community, or try out a part-time job. And, don’t forget the importance of balancing everything with what works for your family in terms of downtime, rest, family time, and fun.
Summer can be both a special time and it can also be stressful, without some of the routines and structures of daily life. As always, we hope you find what works best for your kids and your family!