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Greg Hyde, left, his wife, Deborah, and their son Luka, 9, who has Down syndrome, stand together Wednesday at Riverview Park in Chattanooga. This year will be Luka's third year to attend Camp Zooability, a weeklong day camp offered for kids with disabilities by the Therapeutic Recreation Division of Chattanooga Parks and Recreation Department.


Camp Zooability

Chattanooga Zoo

Call 423-697-1345 to register

Fee $75

June 24-28 ages 6 to 12

July 8-12 ages 13 to 21

July 22 - July 26 ages 22 and older

* Friends Discovery Camp

Creative Discovery Museum

Call 423-648-6045 or 648-6040 to register

June 3-14 ages 8 to 10 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Fee $200 includes a free My Family membership good through June 2014

July 29 - Aug. 2 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Fee $100 includes a free My Family membership good through June 2014

* SpiritHorse Therapeutic Riding

Eagles Rest Ranch

Call 423-421-3205

9 a.m. to 4 p.m. $250 per week ages 6 and older

May 27-31

June 3-7

June 10 - 14

Nine-year-old Luka Hyde found no summer camps that would accept him in Knoxville because he has Down syndrome. Camp directors said they weren't equipped to handle his disability, so he attended some church programs and stayed at home.

But in Chattanooga several camp directors say nothing is off limits to children with special needs. And Luka gets to be a part of the action.

"Camp Zooability," he said, clapping his hands and hopping into the air. Then he rattled off songs like "Baby Got Back" and "I'm Gonna Pop Some Tags," naming the songs he sang last year preparing for the camp's annual talent show.

The Creative Discovery Museum, the Chattanooga Zoo and SpiritHorse Therapeutic Riding are offering camps targeting children with special needs and are accepting summer camp registration.

"We have a higher ratio of counselors to children and that allows us to push the envelope to what children can do," said Dr. Jayne Griffith, the Creative Discovery Museum's director of education.

Because these camps have a higher ratio of counselors to children they are better equipped to handle physical, emotional and behavioral challenges that may come with special-needs children.

"We want them to feel like every other kid who goes to camp," said Elaine Adams, the city's therapeutic recreation coordinator.

That means being able to look past meltdowns and any difficulties a child has because of a disability to see what the child is good at and to encourage him or her in that activity, said Adams.

The Creative Discovery Center is offering two camps targeting children with autism, said Griffith. Children will be paired with typically developing children and a UTC psychology student.

The college student's role is to provide supervision and facilitate interaction between the typically developing child and the child with autism, said Griffith. The goal is to help both children develop relationships while enjoying activities.

SpiritHorse Therapeutic Riding at Eagles Rest Ranch summer program includes archery, hiking, fishing, boating, cart driving, hayrides, arts and crafts, and swimming.

The Chattanooga Zoo also has a high ratio of counselors to campers with special needs for a week full of swimming, talent shows, arts and craft and camp songs.

At the camp, called Camp Zooability, counselors are also UTC psychology students and have been trained to work with children during the camp session.

Contact staff writer Yolanda Putman at or 423-757-6431.