Do you have special memories of summer? Did you spend sun-drenched days playing with friends until the streetlights came on? Was summer camp a favorite destination? Summer is the time to refresh the spirit and build memories. If you decide to send your child to summer camp, choose carefully! When your child has ADD/ADHD, it is important to find a camp that is a good match for your child’s needs. There are some key considerations. First, the camp should be well-staffed and safe. Second, and most importantly from a kid’s standpoint, the camp should be fun! Programming at the camp should be interesting and challenging.
The staff should be a good blend of older, experienced professionals and young, enthusiastic camp counselors. They need to have a “zero tolerance” policy for bullying. There should be enough staff to provide support and encouragement for the campers. Different needs necessitate what the camper to staff ratio should be. In general, if there are younger campers or campers with high physical or behavioral needs, such as camps for kids with ADD/ADHD, more staff should be available to work with the campers. At all times, adequate staffing should keep the campers safe and happy. Camp staff should include medical care staff. This could be a nurse, nurse practitioner, or doctor. Medical staff should definitely have medical training.
A summer camp should be a lot of fun! They should have programs that your child enjoys. When my sons were younger, they went to archaeology camp, horse camp, Boy Scout Camp, and day camp. All of these camps had fun in common. The guys learned skills, met new people, had adventures, and enjoyed themselves immensely. Time away at summer camp always helped them to become more independent. If the camp specializes in ADD/ADHD, there should be appropriate peer models that do not have Attention Deficit Disorder. Make sure that you understand how the camp is run, the philosophy of the staff, especially regarding discipline, and the programming that is available for your child. This programming must include activities that suit your child’s interests and energy levels.
Summer camps come in different sizes and styles! There are small camps, and often these are specialty camps that interest a limited number of children. Some Boy Scout camps may have hundreds of campers at one time. Know what your child will be comfortable with. Day camps can last for a week, or in some cases, they can last all summer. Residential camps, also known as overnight camps, can last for two to three days, or they may run for weeks. Some residential camps can last all summer. These are quite expensive. Costs for camps vary widely from region to region in the United States. Many camps in the Midwest and in rural areas are less expensive than summer camps on the east or west coasts.
Youth groups like Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Campfire, and 4-H run camps. Their websites offer details. The YMCA and YWCA also have camps throughout the United States. Some communities have day camping experiences within their parks and recreation departments and local community colleges. Some specialty camps may be advertised by self-help organizations that specialize in helping people with a particular condition. Look for ads in local papers and through organizations. Don’t forget to Google!
If you can find kids who have attended camps, ask their opinions. What did they like? You should hear what might be called “excited utterances!” Then, ask if they could change three things about the camp, what would they be? If a child quickly finds three things, you might consider looking at a different camp or checking with other campers to find out what their experiences were.
Your child, by virtue of his ADD/ADHD, is an energetic, creative, adventure child. Summer is no time to allow him to stagnate in front of a television. Let your child build memories that will last a lifetime. A good summer camp can help foster independence and permit your child to have experiences that help him develop his interests. And yes, it should be a lot of fun!
Some children with a high level of need benefit from an environment where their individual requirements can be met. Should your child go to a "special needs camp?" As a parent, you know your child and what he must have in place to be successful. How much does his ADD/ADHD impact his day-to-day life and interactions with others? One quick way to assess the child's camping needs is to look at his time in school. Is he in a self-contained classroom for most of his day? Is he out and about in the general education curriculum or elective classes with just a little support? If your child spends more than half of his school day outside of a self-contained class, a camp will probably be able to support any camping requirements that he has. On the other hand, if he does best in a small setting with a lot of adult support, maybe a special needs camp would give him the best experience. In many areas local Rotary Clubs have camps that serve different groups of campers. Here are some resources to help you find a great camp for your child!
Here is a list of camps that CHADD will award camper scholarships on behalf of students who have received a Summer Camp Award from CHADD. The CHADD website says that listing these camps is not an endorsement of the camps or the programming that they offer.
CHADD Eligible Camp List
These camps in the Midwest serve kids with special needs.
Midwest Special Needs Camps
These resources are provided for information only. They are not an endorsement of the camps that are listed. Every parent needs to research camps that they are considering for their child.
This is a book that parents and their camp bound kids can share. The book tells all about what parents and kids need to know about the summer camp experience.
The Summer Camp Handbook: Everything You Need to Find, Choose and Get Ready for Overnight Camp-and Skip the Homesickness