Supporting Campers with Disabilities and Special Needs

Inclusion is removing barriers so all children can participate, regardless of ability. At Zoo Camp, this means that children with and without disabilities and special needs are participating together in camp activities. Zoo Camp provides reasonable accommodations so activities can be adapted to individual needs and abilities. We are pleased to have on our staff, Taylor Richier, an Inclusion Specialist whose role is to support our Camp Counselor staff in providing inclusive experiences and making sure the Zoo is for all campers! To discuss accommodations for your child, please give us a call at 708-688-8342 and we’d be happy to discuss how your child can best be supported during Zoo Camp!

Why inclusion? Inclusion has many benefits for children with and without disabilities. Inclusion fosters respect for all individuals and celebrates differences. Children who participate in inclusive environments learn that we are all people first!

Who is eligible for Zoo Camp inclusion support? We are able to support a wide range of needs for children attending camp (ages 4 to 14 for Summer camp, and 6 to 12 for Winter and Spring camp). Please contact us with questions specific to being able to support your camper.

About Zoo Camp Inclusion Staff

Inclusion Specialist: As part of our leadership team, Zoo Camp has an Inclusion Specialist who coordinates support for campers with disabilities or special needs.

Camp Counselors: Oftentimes, our camp counselors will be providing direct support for campers with disabilities and special needs. Camp counselors receive training in disability awareness, accessibility, and behavior management. Many of our counselors also have experience working with children with disabilities and special needs outside of Zoo Camp. We adhere to staffing ratios put in place by the American Camp Association. These ratios are 1:6 for 4- and 5-years-old, 1:8 for 6- to 10-years-old, and 1:10 for 11- to 14-years-old. However, when feasible we try to have even lower ratios than this standard so additional staff can be available to provide support, as needed.

Zoo Camp Inclusion Process

At the time of registration, we invite you to share any information about your child’s disability or special needs. The information you share is strictly voluntary and you are not required to disclose any details you are not comfortable sharing. Any information you do share will be kept confidential and will only be utilized by Zoo Camp’s leadership team and your child’s counselors to determine how to best support your child at camp should they need any accommodations.

Upon completing registration, you will be sent a link to our Disability/Special Needs Questionnaire. The more of this form you fill out, the better we will be able to individualize the supports and/or accommodations your child may need at Zoo Camp. Please submit this form two weeks prior to your child’s first day of Zoo Camp so we may plan our staff training and resources accordingly. If you are not able to submit the form within this time frame please contact our Inclusion Specialist directly.

The Inclusion Specialist will review your Disability/Special Needs Inclusion Questionnaire and develop a support plan for your child to share with their counselors. If necessary, the Inclusion Specialist will contact you to further discuss your child’s accommodations before developing a support plan or meeting with their counselors.

On your child’s first day of camp, you will sign your child in directly with their camp counselors. We would like you to meet the Inclusion Specialist at this time. Please let your child’s camp counselors know and they will help facilitate a meet up. Throughout the week, your child’s camp counselors and/or the Inclusion Specialist can give you updates on how your child is doing at Zoo Camp. If you have any questions or concerns during the week, you can contact the Inclusion Specialist directly at 708-688-8540 or our general camp line (Adventures in Learning) at 708-688-8342.


There are three primary areas of assistance that Zoo Camp staff cannot provide. These are direct assistance with feeding, toileting, and administering medication.

Feeding: Zoo Camp staff can assist with opening packages, peeling fruit, providing verbal directions, and using visual supports and social stories for lunch and snack time. However, they cannot directly feed campers. Should your child require direct assistance with feeding, you or another caregiver over 18 years of age are welcome to meet your child’s camp group during lunch and snack times to assist with feeding. The leadership team or camp counselors can assist you contacting or planning with your child’s group to find their lunch/snack time and locations. You will not have to pay the zoo admission fee to come to assist your child.

Toileting: Zoo Camp staff can provide scheduled bathroom breaks, verbal reminders, and use visual supports and social stories. However, they cannot directly assist a camper in the restroom in any hands-on manner (such as transfers and assistance with dressing or changing). Should your child require direct assistance with toileting, you or another caregiver over 18 years of age are welcome to meet your child’s camp group during bathroom breaks. The leadership team or camp counselors can assist you contacting or planning with your child’s group to find their bathroom break times and locations. You will not have to pay the zoo admission fee to come to assist your child.

Administering Medication: Campers who need to take or have access to medication during the camp day must carry their own medication. Zoo Camp staff can provide verbal reminders to take medication but cannot administer the medication. If your child cannot administer their own medication, you or another caregiver over 18 years of age are welcome to assist your child. The leadership team or camp counselors can plan with you a time and location to meet to assist your child with their medication. You will not have to pay the zoo admission fee to come to assist your child.

Frequently Asked Questions

Am I required to share my child’s IEP, 504 plan, or behavior intervention plan? You are not required to share these documents with Zoo Camp staff. However, if you choose to do so, it may be helpful in determining how to best support your child at Zoo Camp.

My child has a disability or special need but I don’t think they will need any accommodations while at Zoo Camp. Do I still need to disclose information about my child’s disability? You are never required to disclose information about your child’s disability or special need. However, if Zoo Camp is a new experience for your child, being aware that your child has a special need or disability can help our staff be prepared. Zoo Camp has a different structure than more formal environments such as school so new challenges or successes may arise. If you would prefer to only disclose to the leadership team or Inclusion Specialist but have no formal support plan for your child, this is also an option. We recognize that not all children with a disability require structured support.

My child requires assistance with activities of daily living (feeding, toileting, administering medication). Can Zoo Camp staff provide this? See “Restrictions” 

Will my child be in a group that only has children with disabilities or special needs? Will my child be the only one with a disability in their group? We follow an inclusive model. This means that groups will have both children with and without special needs or disabilities. Your child may or may not be the only one in their group with a disability, but following our inclusive model, staff will ensure that they are included in all activities. 

Can my child be bumped down or up an age group? Please speak with the registrar and/or Inclusion Specialist if you wish to register your child for an age group higher or lower than their chronological age group.

Have questions?
Check out the Frequently Asked Questions page or contact the Education Department at!


Cancellation and Refund Policy

We are proudly accredited by the American Camp Association, the only accreditation organization for camps in North America. The Association is recognized for its standards for camp health, safety, and programming. The organization partners with the American Red Cross and the American Academy of Pediatrics to ensure that camp practices are current and high quality. We believe in inclusion and welcome campers of all abilities. Only 7% of ACA-accredited camps provide an inclusive setting that allows participants with and without disabilities to enjoy the experience together. We are proud to be one of them.