Children look forward to summer camp for various reasons: trying unique and exciting activities, making new friends (or reconnecting with old ones), and seeking adventure away from parents. Parents often look to camp for growth opportunities – physical, social and emotional.
Great summer camps offer all of this to many children, including some with ADHD. A camp designed especially for children with ADHD offers a lot of benefits.
The act of leaving the family and joining a cabin group sets the stage for increasing independence in a child of any age. Children are guided through self-care and daily routines by a counselor who will help them but not do things for them.
Because everyone does things independently (brushing teeth, putting away clothes, carrying their own jacket), tasks become normal and new habits are formed. Kids feel good about being more able to take care of themselves.
Good camps create positive rituals which provide structure to lead campers through their day. This includes mealtime routines (entering quietly, passing food, singing a blessing), program area procedures (putting on safety gear, taking turns), bus-riding, campfire sharing, and bedtime routine. When all of these “rules” are framed as “the Camp way”, campers willingly follow them.
Many camps have defined character-building programs. They may focus on honesty, respect, caring for others or any number of other qualities. They are explained, role-modeled, and then celebrated when kids demonstrate them. All of these elements of ADHD summer camp are very beneficial to children who have the condition, particularly those who struggle with some social skills.
An ADHD summer camp has well-trained staff who understand how to best approach their campers effectively. An ADHD camp, such as Talisman Summer Camp in Zirconia, N.C., will spend at least twice as long training staff as a typical camp. Alongside regular training, they will teach the basics of ADHD, strengths and difficulties to expect, and strategies for helping their campers succeed at camp.
These staff will then guide their campers through starting and maintaining friendships, dealing with conflicts, managing frustrations, and completing tasks. Staff will encourage campers through difficulties and celebrate successes.
An ADHD camp adds extra structure to the typical camp plan. Schedules are full, rules are short and clear, and there are more staff to guide the way. Staff keep close tabs on campers, ensuring they don’t get distracted on their way to activities, that they complete tasks, and that they have help when social situations become difficult.
Activities are pre-processed to be sure everyone understands what is happening. Distractions are kept to a minimum, such as avoiding the sharing of space by more than one activity.
At the same time, an ADHD camp allows room for movement. It doesn’t require campers to sit still or stay quiet for long periods of time. Activities are set up with minimal downtime or fun alternatives to do while waiting.
Options are offered frequently to run off extra energy, even if that is at mealtime or bedtime. Campers get to practice meeting their need to move without disrupting others.
One of the best things about an ADHD summer camp is that your camper is understood and celebrated. They feel like they fit in because many campers share the qualities that usually stand out for your child.
That way, they can relax and have a great time at camp. This can be the piece that allows the ADHD camper to gain the most, such as feeling accepted while their anxiety decreases.