What Do ADHD Summer Camps Offer?
All parents feel a pang of worry or two when their child is about to be introduced to a new situation like summer camp. If you're the parent of a child with ADHD, and you're considering summer camp, you're likely to feel something more akin to panic. Is she going to make friends? Will the adults in charge understand ADHD, or will he have a miserable experience and be labeled the "bad" kid?
Most of these concerns can be alleviated by choosing a camp that is specifically for children with ADHD (these camps in many cases are also geared towards children with learning development disabilities or similar issues, but for the sake of simplicity, I'll refer to the ADHD aspect only). Not only will it be staffed with people who understand kids with ADHD, but these camps offer programs and activities specifically to help kids with ADHD develop skills and capabilities that will help them all year long.
A Slightly Different Focus
The traditional summer camp usually offers a program that's a mix of arts and crafts, athletics and group activities. Many camps for children with ADHD offer the same mix of activities, but are also focused on addressing the challenges that children with ADHD face. For instance, some teach social skills and team building. Since past rejections may cause ADHD kids to be hang back instead of joining in an activity, counselors often intervene to help break the ice. Some camps for children with ADHD or special needs provide academic instruction to help children retain gains made in the past school year.
Camps for children with ADHD have beefed-up medical services. Most camps have a medical professional on staff, and medication dispensing will probably be a well-oiled machine.
During the school year, children with ADHD may get constant negative feedback from teachers and other adults they come into contact with. They could be ostracized and teased by other kids because of their frequently clumsy social interactions. Naturally, their self-esteem suffers, and camps specifically for children with ADHD can be a fantastic boost.
First of all, they won't be the "bad" or "problem" child. The staff "gets" your child and knows what to expect. Many mainstream camps hire teenage counselors, who are usually well-meaning but inexperienced.The staff at an ADHD camp will understand the unique nature of ADHD children and the challenges that they can present.
Fitting in is a new experience for most kids with ADHD. Their ability to navigate the complex set of unspoken rules at school and on the playground is compromised by their impulsivity and hyperactivity. Being at a camp with other ADHD kids may be a revelation for them. Conversely, if they have a bad experience at a mainstream camp, it may reinforce their own belief that they're something wrong with them.
For a list of camps specifically for children with ADHD or other learning and behavioral challenges, do a search for ADHD on the American Camp Association website or this guide from U.S. News & World Report.
NOTE: This is one part of a series on ADHD Children and Summer Camp. The other parts include Tips for Summer Camp Success and Selecting the Right Summer Camp for Your ADHD Child.