Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)



Date of Award


Committee Chair or Co-Chairs

Masoud Ghaffari

Committee Members

Joellen Edwards, Florence Weierbach, Claire Cook


Children with a chronic illness or disability can encounter many difficulties throughout their lifetimes. Respite care through therapeutic summer day camps is a service used to relieve the physical and mental strains placed on caregivers while also creating unique opportunities to benefit the child. There are gaps in the literature surrounding therapeutic camps and their benefit for the family and their ability to manage the child’s special health care need. The purpose of this study is to determine how respite care in the form of a therapeutic summer day camp for children with special needs impacts a family’s ability to manage their child’s special health care needs within their family. This research study used mixed methodology combining quantitative data collection through pre- and postsurveys and qualitative data collection through interviews that work to answer questions relating to the effects of a therapeutic summer day camp on parents’ perspective and management of their child’s condition. The theoretical framework used to guide the study is the Family Management Style Framework. Twenty-two parents completed The Family Management Measure that was administered prior to and at the conclusion of an 8-week therapeutic summer day camp program. Qualitative interviews with 11 parents helped to better understand specific interventions and experiences of the therapeutic camp that benefitted their child and family. Although the quantitative analysis did not yield statistically significant changes in the family’s ability to manage their child’s condition as a result of attendance at the camp, the qualitative interviews demonstrated robust evidence that the camp provided meaningful experiences for the campers and parents while alleviating stress within the family. Themes that emerged from the interviews include: (1) Family-Child themes of loss of normalcy, relationships affected, increased stress, family adaptations, and love for the child; (2) Camp-Child themes of meets individual needs, creates happiness, and behavior changes; and (3) Camp-Parent themes of improved perception of the child, decreased stress, parent involvement with staff, and need for specific environment at camp. Implications of the results are discussed, along with recommendations for future research.

Document Type

Dissertation - unrestricted


Copyright by the authors.