The inclusion of summer camps does not work: it must be built throughout the year, integrating activities and services

The inclusive summer center is not only what welcomes children with disabilities, it is what offers the uniqueness of each child the right context to create relationships, entertainment, growth. She is convinced of that Cristina Finazzi, founder of Spazio Blu autismo Varese and spokesman for the association United for Autism Lombardia, considering both her own personal experience as a mother and the general context, especially exclusively this year throughout Lombardy.


The Ledha association reports on Il Fatto Quotidiano a 20% increase in reports of exclusion from summer centers for Lombard children with disabilities in 2022. “Too many realities have shown less willingness to welcome disabled children and justify themselves with the different numerical ratio between educators and children due to the end of the state of emergency for Covid – explains Finazzi – but the tragedy is that even many summer centers with specific inclusivity projects active and financed by the region, municipalities or foundations, actually offered a very partial reception of children, not very functional for the family organization and not very important, if not even negative for children’s growth”.

The difficulties and failures are so many, in between reduced hours only in the morning, closed tours, partial services, specific training of operators and real moments of sharing games and socializing between childrento question the whole organizational structure of summer camps and oratories.
Inclusion cannot be improvised during a few weeks of planning activities – says Finazzi – Inclusion is a cultural fact that not only concerns the child with disabilities, but the entire social context in which they live, because guaranteeing inclusion for disability means guaranteeing inclusion for every uniqueness ».


The scale of the problem is such that there is no point in complaining about individual episodes: according to Finazzi, we really need to change the pace. Starting with the establishment of services for children: “We need to build bridges throughout the year between children’s different social contexts, starting with school, rehabilitation centers, oratories and sports activities – Finazzi suggests – In this direction the first step can be taken by the municipality, which promotes continuity between school offers and accompaniment for summer activities. But also between school, speech and sports clubs and specific centres, in a way that inclusion is a linear and conscious path that is supported in all aspects of children’s social lives. If adults are the first to sit in their own areas of expertise, unable to integrate services and experiences, how can they think about integrating children?“.

Creating continuity and integration of services means sharing information, modus operandi and educational pathways to accompany children on their path of growth with awareness and responsibility: “Instead, it happens too often that the educators who are entrusted with the inclusion of the child do not have the theoretical or practical tools to function correctly, sometimes not even entering into a relationship with the child. And of course this effectively cancels any project or investment in inclusion,” explains the spokesman for Spazio Blu Autismo.


The professionalism of the operators of oratories and summer camps is another good theme: “Today, unfortunately, we tend to suggest to children what we have always done, games based on competitiveness, about the prize for the fastest, the strongest and the one who came first.instead of focus on cooperation, on the ability to help each other so that everyone reaches the goal – Finazzi notes – for inclusion to be real, this attention cannot be given only to the operator entrusted with the child with disabilities, but must be shared by the entire team of educators, otherwise inclusion of the child with disabilities, and by all the unique by every child cannot happen”.

In addition to the preparation of the operators, sharing and integration over time, through the year of practice and experiences and proposals for games, another aspect where inclusion principles must be considered is thatorganization of the proposed activities: “I can’t have inclusivity if there are one or two days every week where the summer camp group is offered activities that are not for children with disabilities. – explains the mother – there are activities that are just not suitable, but others where it is simply enough to organize to ensure that everyone, absolutely everyone, can participate in peace and safety.’

An example? If you choose to go for a walk, you can choose routes that can be traveled by everyone; if it is a matter of going to a play area, you can choose an inclusive one; if it comes to going to the pool, it will be preferable to choose one with a high level of accessibility.

More than an idea, Cristina Finazzis is a proposal that awaits supporters, to build integration paths from today with a view to the next summer season.

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