ADHD and Summer Camp – Things to Consider
This is the time of year where parents are already planning for summer camps. Hard to believe but here we are!
Summer often brings a feeling of relief. No more routine. No more school. No more battles for homework or activities. Somewhat less (or different) expectations.
It also means less structure and much more spontaneity.
For many people this is a very welcome change in pace and chance to relax.
For the ADHD brain (both kids and adults), this can mean havoc, chaos and stress.
As much as some families look forward to summer camp, others dread the potential situations that may come up. Kids with ADHD can experience summer camp differently than their peers.
Both inattentive and hyperactive/impulsive types of ADHD have symptoms that can make the camp experience difficult.
Here are some things to consider when picking a camp for your child.
- Consider your child’s likes and interests. This may seem obvious, but deserves mention. Though you may think a full-day camp exploring the migratory pattern of birds (or insert another subject of choice here) is fascinating, your child may not agree. If they don’t agree with your choice, problems may arise. Not to mention, they just finished 10 months of school. Encourage them to do something they want to do and something they like.
- Find out ahead of time the structure of the camp and how much unstructured time kids will have. Unstructured time can be trouble time. For inattentive kids, this might mean they wander off alone and don’t participate, and for hyper-active or impulsive kids, this could mean they end up in situations where they struggle with making positive choices.
- To expand on that, you likely want to pick a camp where students are expected to participate. Camps that allow kids to sit out of an activity may again mean that kids have time to make less than desirable choices.
- On the flip side, does the camp have a quiet space where the kids can go if they are over-stimulated. Will they be left alone and how/when can they rejoin their group?
- I often hear from parents of the battles resulting from screen time. To avoid this, picking a camp that minimizes screen time is likely to be the most successful. I would also suggest not sending technology to camp, but every family is different and has to decide that for themselves. Obviously, a camp that is computer based, such as coding or 3-D printing is different.
- Medication. Though some parents prefer taking their kids off medication for summer, think about what will lead your child to having the most success and help your family have the best camp experience. Most camps require at least some attention and impulse control.
- Because many kids with ADHD can struggle socially within the school setting, many look forward to summer camps where they can meet potential new friends who aren’t judging them instantly. Again, picking a camp that falls within your child’s interests will help them meet peers their age with similar interests, helping them to create a bond.
- As always, celebrate goals that were achieved and successes of all types!
When picking summer camps, there is no one-size-fits-all answer.
Ask your children what they are interested in and ask them where they would like to spend their days.
As parents, you have the final say, but, if your child is motivated and excited, this will be a big step in experiencing a fun and stress-free summer.
6 Essential Summer Camp Criteria for Kids with ADHD
Summer Camps for Children with ADHD
Taking Charge of ADHD: The Complete Authoritative Guide for Parents by Russell A. Barkley