posted on November 15, 2012 16:36
The Savvy Summer Camp Search: Tips for a Successful Hunt
Did you say summer camp? You must be kidding, it's the middle of winter!
by Jar Lampard
IT MAY SEEM CRAZY TO START PLANNING FOR SUMMER in the middle of
winter, but finding a camp for a child with ADHD can be stressful for
both the parents and the child. While it is tempting to procrastinate,
starting your search now will pay off in the long run.
Finding the right camp is like finding the right doctor or
medication. It will take research and many discussions before you find a
good fit for your child. To keep from getting overwhelmed, start early
and consider the following savvy tips.
|| • Many specialized camps fill their slots
quickly. After seeing their children have positive experiences,
relieved parents immediately sign up for the following summer, leaving
few spots for latecomers. Waiting until February or March to sign up may
be too late!
• If your child has severe symptoms,
especially challenging behaviors, there are fewer camps that can
really work with your child—and those will be in high
• The early bird gets the scholarship
worm. For many families cost is an issue, and specialized camps
can be expensive. Fortunately many camps offer financial assistance, but
it goes quickly.
BEGINNING YOUR SEARCH
Review your options before you think about enrolling your child in
any camp. Camp is not just a choice between day or overnight any more.
There are many more possibilities to consider, including adventure
camps, science and church camps, camps through your local community or
parks and recreation department, camps that last for just a few days or
all summer long, specialty camps that focus on academics, behavior or
social skills, and camps designed specifically for kids with ADHD or
As you think about which environment might work best for your child,
the following strategies will be useful.
Start by evaluating your child’s strengths and
weaknesses. Determine areas your child needs to work on
(academics, behavior, social skills, etc.), select one or two areas, and
focus on those. Then weigh his or her strengths and try to maintain a
balance between work and play; this will help keep things both
productive and positive.
While summer is a time to let loose, often kids with ADHD
still require some structure to their day. If your child does
better in a structured environment, make sure the camps you are
considering have a consistent daily schedule that is clearly
communicated to the campers.
Is your child burned out academically? If so,
selecting a camp that focuses on being outdoors or on a favorite
activity, such as soccer or theater, might be a good option. For many
children with ADHD, self-esteem takes a hit during the school year.
Focusing on an area where your child excels can help rebuild
self-confidence, while still improving an area of weakness such as
It is also very important to talk to your child. Get
your child's input about how he or she would like to spend the
summer and include him or her in the discussions. Being part of the
process can help a child overcome any anxieties he or she might have and
may lead to more positive feelings about camp.
Remember that you know your child better than anyone, so do your
research, get input from others, and then trust your instincts.
Once you have spoken with your child, considered his or her strengths
and weaknesses and determined what you can afford, you are ready to look
at specific camps. Here’s how to find them.
• Talk with other parents in the
neighborhood, school, church, or your local CHADD group. Learning from
others’ experiences can save you time, money and grief.
• Ask your child’s doctor, therapist, school
counselor, teacher, coach, scout leader, or religious leader for
You can also search relevant websites to locate specialty
• The American Camping
Association allows you to search by
specialty, such as "behavioral" or "gifted" and special needs
such as ADHD. You can also search by price range. Click on “Find a
Camp.” Be sure to check out the ACA's resources for
parents and families.
• The My Summer
Camps website allows searches by
category. Click on “Special Needs” and then
“Learning Disabilities and ADHD.”
• Camp Depot is a directory of summer camps with a searchable database. To find a camp, click "Search Camps"at the upper left corner and select "Category Search" on the following page. Camps for ADHD are listed in the "Special Needs" category.
• Camp Channel has been sharing camp listing since 1995. To find a camp for a child or teen with ADHD, click "Find a Camp" from the menu at the left side, and on the following page type "ADHD" into the Keyword search.
The winter months are a good time to explore alternate funding to fill
any gaps between cost and what you can afford. Talk to local businesses
and service organizations such as the Elks, Lions, or Kiwanis Clubs to
see if they can offer any assistance. Gather information on
scholarships and apply early; many have application deadlines in
early March. Another good early-bird strategy is to start setting money
aside to help offset a large payment. Knowing and staying within your
limit while shopping for a camp will help you all look forward to
SELECTING A CAMP
Once you have narrowed down your choices, call and ask A LOT of
questions. Good camps are not only willing to answer questions, they
Some good questions to ask potential camps are:
|• How is staff selected and trained? Are
the counselors high school kids or college students who are studying
special education or psychology? What qualifications, experience, or
certifications are required?
• What is the ratio of counselors to
campers? How closely are children supervised?
• Does the camp have medical personnel to
administer the child’s medication, if needed?
• What behavior management techniques are used?
• What are the behavioral expectations for campers,
and what consequences may result from failure to meet them?
• Is the day structured? How is the schedule
communicated to the kids?
• Are scholarships available, and how does one
• Make sure to ask about communication between camp
and home. It is important for the camp to be a good fit for
your child and your parenting style. For example, some camps encourage
kids not to call home while working through homesickness or behaviors
while other camps send daily emails with comments from staff.
• Finally, ask if they have experience handling
co-existing conditions or situations that are unique to your child.
AFTER YOU HAVE THE ANSWERS TO THESE QUESTIONS, you are ready to
make your decision. Then you can kick back and relax because
you’ve got summer camp covered—and it’s still
Jar Lampard worked as a senior health information specialist for the
National Resource Center on ADHD, a program of CHADD funded by the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Updated February 2015. The original version of this updated article appeared in the December 2007 issue
of Attention magazine. Copyright © 2007 and 2015 by Children
and Adults with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (CHADD). All