Choosing A Summer Camp

Summer is a great time for kids with ADHD to explore creative and athletic interests and make friends outside of school. School can be a challenge for kids with ADHD, both socially and academically, and this can really affect their self-esteem over time. So, it’s important to provide them with summer activities that allow them to excel and can feel successful, and well as new activities that pique their interests and allow them to develop new skills.  But finding the right camp is a challenge in and of itself, and it becomes even harder when your child has ADHD. Here are some things to look for in a camp that’s a good fit for your child:

  • Does the camp have activities that my child is excited about? Kids with ADHD are most focused and often at their best when they are engaged in activities that they find interesting. So, have your child come up with a list of fun things they’d like to do at camp this summer, and search for programs that have at least some of these activities.
  • Look for camps that have a small staff to student ratio. Kids with ADHD typically need a bit more supervision than kids without ADHD. If your child tends to struggle socially in new settings, having more counselors around will help them catch problems early, before they escalate into crises.
  • If your child struggles in a particular subject area, or in multiple areas, look for summer camps that include an academic component. Just make sure that these camps also include many fun activities and play time. Summer is a time for kids with ADHD to get relief from the pressures of school. So, while maintaining academic gains is important, it’s just one piece of the puzzle.
  • Look for camps that have a high level of structure. Kids with ADHD tend to struggle most during unstructured time, so in most cases, the more structure the better.
  • As a parent, you know your child better than anyone. Think about your child’s strengths and weakness. How would you like to see them grow this summer? For example, would you like to see them become less shy and more comfortable around kids their own age? Would you like to see them improve their good sportsmanship skills? Or would you like them to be in a setting where the adults are more positive than their teacher may have been last year? Choose a camp that gives your child a chance to explore and work on these areas.
  • Once you’ve narrowed down your selections and have made your list of growth goals for your child, contact the camps. Talk to them about the strategies they use to manage behavior, how they facilitate friendships or handle social conflicts, how they structure their days, and the camper to counselor ratio. When it comes to managing behavior, make sure the camp is using praise, positivity and earning privileges, as opposed to things like time-outs and removal of privileges as punishments for kids. Look for camps that have games and activities that help kids get to know each other. Also look for camps that pay attention to the differences in individual children and pair them up with teammates, bunkmates and partners that are well suited for each other.

Most importantly, the camp should be someplace that both you and your child are excited about. Summer is for fun, and you’ll both enjoy it more when your child is in a safe and positive environment.

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