Are you considering sending your child with ADHD off to summer camp this year? If so, you may have many questions. Is your child ready to attend an overnight camp? Should you choose a camp specializing in children with ADHD or a mainstream camp? If your child is going away overnight, is there someone that can give medication? Are counselors prepared to deal with the challenges of children with ADHD? Can a camp provide the supervision your child needs but still allow them to have fun? Will your child make friends? All of these questions are legitimate concerns for parents raising a child with ADHD.
Narrowing Down Your Choices
Whether you are considering an overnight camp or a day camp in your area, there are many varieties of camps available. While some may specialize in specific areas, such as sports, water activities, drama, music or art, others may offer a wide variety of activities on a daily basis, such as swimming, art, field trips and sports. The choices can seem endless.
While you must take into consideration your child’s ADHD, keep their interests in mind as well. Talk with your child about what activities they would like to do. Take some time to browse various camp websites and let your child see what each camp has to offer. Discuss what is similar in the camps and what the differences are. For many months of the year, your child is forced to sit still in a classroom, let the summer camp be somewhere they will be free to express their own personality as well as joining with other children and gaining new experiences.
Once you have narrowed down your choices to a few camps, talk with your child’s teachers. They may have some valuable input on which camp might be a good fit with your child’s abilities.
Some specialized camps also offer academic instruction during the summer to help a child struggling, to enhance their learning or to prevent a child from falling behind during the summer months. Decide in advance if you want your child to receive extra academic assistance during camp and if so, look for camps that offer this service.
The Differences Between Camps for Children with ADHD and Mainstream Camps
There are a number of camps around the country that specialize in children with ADHD. Celebrate ADHD, in Washington DC offers one such camp. According to their website, they stress:
Building Friendships and Developing Social Skills
Problem Solving and Conflict Resolution
Building Purpose, Meaning and Responsibility
Providing Feedback to Parents
Many camps that specialize in working with children with ADHD will stress the similar philosophies. Many are staffed with medical professionals or college graduates seeking a career in medicine, social work or education.
Developing friendships is an important part of summer camp. Most camps specializing in ADHD will monitor children to help develop social skills and to make sure no children are left out of activities and groups. In addition, they often have a lower counselor to camper ratio, allowing your child to receive more individual attention as well as helping campers to learn skills in social skills, life skills and allows counselors to closely monitor behavioral issues.
Camps specializing in ADHD also usually have a medical staff available to make sure children on medication have access and are provided their medication on a daily basis. In addition, there may be additional medical staff such as nurses or pediatricians. For example, Summit Camp, located in the Pocono Mountains has a full time pediatrician and five full time nurses on staff.
Camps for Children with ADHD
Although there are many different camps, some examples of camps specifically designed to help children with ADHD are (in addition to the ones mentioned above):
This overnight camp is located in North Carolina, accepts children from age 9 to age 17 and works with children with ADHD, learning disabilities and behavioral problems. Their programs are highly structured and have “campus based” camps for children from 9 to 13, a combined classroom and camp for ages 11-14 and several adventure camps for children from ages 12-17.
SOAR (Success Oriented Achievement Realized) camps are wilderness and expedition type camps designed for children with ADHD and/or learning disabilities. These camps have adventures to places such as the Florida Keys, the Caribbean, the Rocky Mountains and the Southwest Desert. Children participate in activities such as rock climbing, rafting, horseback riding, scuba diving, snorkeling, kayaking and much more. Their camps include psychologists and nurses on staff as well as counselors trained in administering treatment and monitoring children on medication. Their programs are available for preteens, teens and young adults.
This program, located in New Work, is specifically for children with ADHD between the ages of 7 and 11. The program is designed to improve social skills, develop friendships, increase problem solving skills and self-esteem and teach anger control methods. The typical day at the camp involves working on academics in the morning and physical activities, such as swimming, in the afternoon.
Although this list is not in any way meant to be inclusive, it hopefully will provide you with an idea on what camps specializing in ADHD offer and the wide variety of activities that are available.
For more information on camps:
KidsCamps.com offers a searchable database of camps for ADHD and Learning Disabilities.
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Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.