AD/HD Summer Camps: One Family’s Experience

Imageby Beth Ross

Our son, Andrew, attended camp for the first time the summer before he turned thirteen. The camp was nestled in the Pocono Mountains, about an hour from Scranton, Pennsylvania. We chose the camp because it was close to our home and offered a ten-day mini-camp to see if the camp and the child are a good fit. After this camping introduction, we were satisfied just to hear our son admit he had a good time and that “probably” he would want to go back again.

When we picked up Andrew from his first four-week stay at camp, we got to see the camp for the first time. It probably looks like most camps with a recreation hall, dining hall, medical office, and cabins dotting the landscape next to a lake. The camp was buzzing with cars being loaded and friends and counselors saying goodbye to each other. When we found Andrew, he greeted us with a big smile. For a moment, I thought he was just happy to see us, but his smile had more to do with his excitement at introducing us to his new friends, the camp counselors who worked with him. His smile and enthusiasm let us know that summer camp, and this camp in particular, was a good idea. When we asked him if he would like to return the following summer, he answered, “Yes.” For our not very communicative child, this was a big thumbs-up.

Like many camps that serve a special-needs population, this one had a high staff-to-camper ratio, and the ratio varied from cabin to cabin depending on the needs of the campers. The counselors we met were mature young people. They had endless amounts of energy, enthusiasm, and, most importantly, patience. One of their missions was to build up the campers’ self-esteem. The campers were described as “super” and “awesome.” Andrew earned more certificates of achievement than we could count. We truly believed that their mission was accomplished.

Our chief goal for Andrew was to have a good camp experience, including exposure to the kinds of activities that we could not easily provide for him, such as canoeing, hiking, zooming around a lake on a banana boat, performing in a camp play, and very importantly, doing these things with other kids his age. The camp shared a nightly e-mailed newsletter with parents describing the menu for the day and the activities of each cabin. Daily pictures of campers were posted on their website so that parents could get visual feedback on what was happening. It was a highlight of my day to search for our son in those pictures. Campers aged fourteen and older were called “Super Teens.” They were assigned jobs, but were also given special privileges with weekly daylong field trips, such as a trip to see the Scranton Sea Dogs play, which was a highlight for our baseball fan. We felt satisfied that our goal of a good camp experience was more than met.

Beth Ross is a member of CHADD.

This article was originally published in the February 2006 issue of Attention. Copyright © 2006 by Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD). All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission from CHADD is prohibited.
Posted in: Summer Camps