It's that time of year again- classes are winding down and children are turning in their final assignments. Children eagerly leave school excited for the best time of year- summer! Summer camps are a great opportunity for children to participate in their interests, build social skills, and engage in endless adventure activities. Parents of children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) want the same experiences for their kids, but may not know if their child will fit in at summer camp.
This article will explore the benefits of summer camp for children with ADHD, finding the right summer camp for your child, research tools available, and how to talk with the camp directors. Keep reading to learn more about why summer camp may be a good fit for your child!
Benefits of summer camp for children with ADHD
Children with ADHD spend countless hours each day staying focused and engaging in activities that they may find uninteresting while at school. Summer camps provide these children with numerous opportunities to engage in physical activity and participate in outdoor activities, which we know are important for reducing anxiety, promoting focus, and aiding in adequate sleep.
In addition, providing children with ADHD with activities they find interesting will keep them engaged and motivated to work towards goals and increase self-confidence as they are eager to try new things and learn. At summer camp, children are offered experiences that they wouldn't necessarily get in the classroom or at home. These experiences teach children how to overcome challenges and work collaboratively to achieve goals, all while having some fun!
Children with ADHD might also struggle with self-esteem and social skills. Summer camps involve a supportive environment that teach children important life skills. They learn to improve social skills, follow directions, and manage frustrations, all while participating in sports and games in a camp setting.
Research has indicated that children with ADHD who have attended summer camps have found improvements in ADHD symptoms, relationships with peers, and overall functioning, compared to ADHD children who did not attend summer camp.
Understanding ADHD in Children
ADHD is a neurodevelopmental disorder that involves a pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity and impulsivity. Individuals with ADHD typically have difficulty maintaining focus, staying organized, and staying on task.
If they have been diagnosed with the hyperactive/impulsive type, these children generally have trouble sitting still and may act without thinking. Children who struggle with impulsivity also have difficulty with self-control and delayed gratification.
Most children receive a diagnosis of ADHD during the elementary school years and impair an individual's ability to function or engage in day to day activities. Symptoms of ADHD can often be misdiagnosed as emotional issues or disciplinary problems, and if children do not receive a diagnosis, it can lead to a history of poor academic performance and difficult or failed relationships.
Unique challenges faced by children with ADHD
Children with ADHD are faced with numerous challenges throughout the day. Some children have difficulty maintaining focus during school, which can result in learning difficulties. Other children may have impulse issues and tend to be more hyperactive and restless. In addition, some children with ADHD may need help making friends or struggle socially. For instance, they might lack the skills to build friendships.
All of these unique challenges that children with ADHD are faced with impacts their self confidence and can result in lower self esteem. With the proper support and guidance from their school, families, and camp instructors, kids can better manage their ADHD symptoms and live a happier life.
Choosing the Right Summer Camp for Your Child
The right summer camp your child attends will be based on your child's interests and specific needs. Each summer camp offers their own experiences and adventures, so it is important to do your research before you sign your child up. As you begin looking for summer camps, ask yourself the following questions and you are bound to find the right fit for your child:
- What are my child's interests? What sports do they like to play? What activities do they like?
- Will they enjoy learning something new?
- Are they able to spend long periods of time away from home?
- How easy do building friendships come for them?
- What are my child's specific needs? Do they require medications?
- What type of camp would my child benefit from?
- What summer programs are available in the area?
- What camp activities would my child enjoy?
- Would my child benefit from engaging in educational activities?
After you answer these questions, you are better prepared to find a summer camp or summer program that is the best fit for your child.
Researching Summer Camps
The summer camp experience is full of incredible choices and opportunities such as science camps, church camps, community camps, and camps that can last for just a few days to the duration of the summer. Besides the traditional camping experience, there are even specialized camps that were created for individuals with specific learning disabilities, college students, individuals with autism spectrum disorder, developmental disabilities, and other students who require individualized care. From an ADHD summer camp to an ADHD summer treatment program, there are a variety of different opportunities available to the whole family.
Websites and resources for finding summer camps
If you do a quick internet search, you are likely to find thousands of camps claiming to be reputable and the perfect fit for your child. It is easy to get lost in the search. To save you some time, consider looking into the American Camp Association, Childcare.gov website, and other local resources for finding the right camp for your child.
American Camp Association
American Camp Association is an online resource that searches through over 3,000 camps. This website searches through day, overnight, children camps, and camps for young adults to find the best fit. This website includes camps that are ACA accredited, meaning each camp has a solid proof of accountability, credibility, and commitment.
Childcare.gov is a website that offers free resources for finding reputable summer camp options in your area. This website also recommends using ACA to find local accredited summer camp options.
There are a variety of summer camp and summer programs available for children of all ages. These camps and programs can be geared towards specific interests and various ages. Consider reaching out to the following places in your area for summer camp options:
- The local YMCA
- Local childcare centers
- Boys and Girls Clubs
- Recreation Centers
- Community organizations such as Girl Scouts
Evaluating the programs and activities offered
As you begin your search for a summer camp for your child, consider how you will be evaluating the various camps and unique programs on your list. What is important to you and your child? What are your child's strengths and weaknesses? What type of experience do you want your child to get out of the camp? What type of structure does your child need?
If you are wanting your child to participate in numerous camp activities, research what types of activities your child would be participating in if they were to attend the camp and be knowledgeable of what is included in the camp schedule. In addition, consider any reviews that you come across from previous campers. Did they have a good time? Did they return?
Talking with the Camp Director
You found a camp and you're deciding whether you think your child would be a good fit. What's next? Part of the decision process should include a discussion with the camp director. Camp directors will be able to answer any specific questions you may have and give an idea of how the camp is run, what protocols are followed, as well as the camp routines and staff that are typically hired.
Questions to ask the camp director
Consider asking the camp director questions about how the staff are trained, students ages, what a typical day is like at camp, how crisis situations are handled, how are children disciplined, and what are the specific learnings of the camp.
How the camp director responds to these questions will provide you with enough information about how the camp is run and if it is a good fit.
Considering the Camp Environment
You can look at pictures online of the camp environment, but you might not get the "real feel" for how things are being run at camp and what the environment looks like. A picture can say one thing, but the physical environment of a place can say another. Also consider the staff-to-campers ratio when choosing a camp.
Evaluating the physical environment
As you begin to find a camp for your child, it may be worth a visit in person. If your child is interested in an overnight summer camp, parents should be sure that their child is staying in a place that is safe and supportive.
Most parents are looking for a safe place for their kids to learn, grow, and have fun, therefore, evaluating the physical environment of the camp is an important part of the decision process.
Considering the staff-to-camper ratio
The staff-to-camper ratio is vital to consider when choosing a summer camp. If it is your child's first time away at camp, perhaps you want to make sure that your child will be getting enough supervision and attention from staff who understand ADHD.
Preparing Your Child for Summer Camp
While camps are meant to be fun, being new to the summer camp experience can be daunting and anxiety-provoking for some. Be excited for your child! Share with your camper the host of activities that they will be able to participate in at camp such as horseback riding, canoeing, surfing, building a tent, as well as any other recreational activities that camp offers. Additionally, be sure to plan ahead and prepare any medications or other accommodations that your child may require before sending them off to camp.
Discussing summer camp with your child
Whether your child is attending an overnight summer camp or a weeklong day camp, be sure to focus on the positive with your child. Show them that you are excited for all the experiences they are going to have and memories they are going to make, as this will help get rid of the nerves that come with trying something new.
Remind them that there will be many other kids their age with similar interests and possibly the same diagnoses. Ensuring your child that they will make friends and have a great time
Planning ahead for medications and other accommodations
Plan so that your child has a seamless transition into summer camp. This can include organizing their medications, making sure they have enough clothes, packing a first aid kit, making a plan for crisis situations, as well as planning for other accommodations with camp staff.
Planning ahead and making sure that your child has everything that they would need, and more, for the duration of camp ensures that your child will have nothing to worry about except to just have fun!