Find the Right Camp for Your ADHD Child
Learn about the different types of camps for children with ADHD and how to choose the right one for your child
It’s never too early to start making summer plans for your kids. But as a parent of an ADHD child, you may have questions or concerns about your child’s options. Fortunately, there are many summer programs out there for children with ADD, ADHD, and other learning disabilities (LDs).
The perks of summer camp
There are lots of ways that summer programs might benefit your child. Research shows that ADHD/LD summer programs can:
- Improve ADHD symptoms and overall functioning
- Help children develop social skills
- Enhance social and family relationships
- Build self-esteem
- Promote good decision-making
Types of camps
There’s a broad range of ADHD/LD camps to choose from. Each program focuses on different goals for campers.
Social skills camps: These camps are for kids who have trouble making friends during the school year. Counselors are trained to help campers build positive relationships and self-confidence. Most of these camps offer traditional summer activities, like hiking, kayaking, and camping.
Life skills camps: Life skills camps are similar to social skills camps, but there’s more of a focus on team-building. These camps typically have challenging outdoor activities—like white-water rafting or rock climbing—that help campers with planning and decision-making. The camp also helps children with basic day-to-day skills, like planning meals and doing laundry.
Academic support camps: Support camps are an option for students who might be at risk of falling back academically over the summer. There’s time for classroom instruction, recess, and field trips. Students are usually assigned an hour or two of homework each night, and parents can request a weekly report card from the teacher.
Summer treatment programs (STPs): These programs offer behavioral training for both children and parents. Specialists teach a series of behavior modification sessions in either individual or group settings. Students receive daily feedback and a report at the end of the camp session. STPs can improve learning skills and academic performance, and build self-esteem both in and out of the classroom.
Mainstream camps: Mainstream camps don’t tailor programs to campers with learning disabilities, but they can usually accommodate children with ADHD. These camps are a good option for kids who make friends easily and who have reasonably high self-esteem. The camps can also help kids adapt to taking medication in a mainstream environment.
Choosing a camp: What you need to know
Before looking into camps, figure out what your child’s needs are. Think about his or her strengths, limitations, and interests. Reflect on past situations where your child faced behavioral issues. In those situations, what went well? What didn’t go well? How did your child respond to discipline? You can even ask your child’s teachers or therapists for feedback to help steer you towards the right type of camp.
Next, do your research. You can start looking for camps by contacting your local chapter of CHADD (Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Disorder) or the American Camp Association. When you come up with a list of camps, contact the camp director to get some basic information:
How many counselors are on staff? What’s the ratio of counselors to campers? One counselor for every two or three kids is ideal, and allows staff to give your child more individual attention.
Is there other specialty staff on site? Specialty staff may include doctors, nurses, lifeguards, coaches, therapists, or general activity instructors—i.e., art, tennis, etc.
What skills are emphasized in the program? The answer to this question can help you gauge if the camp focuses more on social skills, life skills, academics, behavior modification, etc.
What are the disciplinary tactics used with campers? You’ll want to figure out how the staff handles discipline and problem situations. Be sure to tell the camp director about your child’s temperament and behavioral triggers. Talk about what you want your child to get out of the camp experience, and ask the staff about goal-setting.
What’s a typical day like? It’s important to get a sense of the camp’s daily structure, but you’ll also want to make sure that the camp has activities to challenge and interest your child.
How are medications supervised? Find out who’s responsible for dispensing medications at camp. You should also ask how the staff makes sure that your child gets the proper medication and dose.
These questions are meant to be a starting point for your research, but you should feel free to ask any other questions that come to mind. Having open communication with camp administrators will help you figure out if the camp is truly a good fit for your child.
Learn more about ADHD summer programs here:
American Camp Association
Children and Adults with Attention Deficit Disorder (CHADD)
Additudemag.com. (n.d.). How to pick an ADHD/LD camp for your child. Retrieved from http://www.additudemag.com/web/article/1890.html
ADHD summer camp: Choosing the best program for your child. ADDitude. Retrieved from http://www.additudemag.com/adhd/article/8414.html
The best camps for ADHD children. ADDitude. Retrieved from http://www.additudemag.com/adhd/article/3206.html