“Kids with special needs thrive here because Diane has created a culture of acceptance and appreciation for all children.”
A Camp that Embraces Kids with Special Needs
Twenty-five years ago when Diane Saltzberg joined the staff at JCC Camp Grossman, she was also an adjustment counselor in the Weston public schools. She knew that when school let out in June, most kids couldn’t wait for summer to start.
She also knew that for children with special needs, summer did not always mean freedom and fun. Without good options for summer activities, time off from school often meant isolation and boredom for these kids.
Diane has been on a 25-year mission to change the summer landscape for kids with special needs. As Special Needs Director at Grossman, she has grown the camp’s inclusion program from three to 100 children.
“How many of us can say that we changed the culture of an institution single-handedly?“ asks Stuart Silverman, Assistant Vice President, Camping Services. “Kids with special needs thrive at Camp Grossman because Diane has created a culture of acceptance and appreciation for all children.”
Stuart says he receives emails every summer from parents who say that their child’s time at Grossman was incredibly transforming. They’re thrilled that their child experienced real success and felt genuinely happy at camp.
Diane explains the power of camp like this: “Even with wonderful programs and staff, school can be hard for kids with special needs. At camp, it’s the opposite. All kids are here to enjoy themselves. No one will make a camper do anything they don’t want to do. This empowers kids. They feel in charge and end up mastering skills they didn’t think they could.”
Diane tells the story of a 12-year-old girl with special needs who was afraid to try the zip line. She cautiously watched her fellow campers try it, and as they cheered her on, she finally tried it, too. Ecstatic, she ended up not wanting to get off!
“Because of Diane’s tireless efforts, a loving attitude is integrated into the fabric of Camp Grossman and it’s a major reason for our success,” says Stuart. “Diane has helped make Grossman a place where we genuinely ask what we can do to help every child succeed, not just campers with special needs.”
"Both of our kids have such a great time at Grossman, and we love that we can send both of our kids - one who is typically developing and one who is on the autism spectrum - to the same camp! The special needs program has provided a camp experience for our son that he would not have otherwise been able to enjoy.” — Camp Grossman Parent