Why Consider an ADHD Summer Camp for your Child
Ah summer. Days filled with school vacation, exploring, and running around with friends, not to mention time away at summer camp! Many formative childhood experiences include some time spent at summer camp – whether it be making a new friend, sleeping away from home for the first time, learning a survival skill, playing a new game, or singing at the top of your lungs with your fellow campers under the starry night sky (to name a few). Are these same experiences within reach for your son or daughter diagnosed with ADHD or Autism? Quite simply, yes! Specialized camps not only exist for both youth with autism and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), but have long-standing success with atypical campers. Read on to learn more about ADHD summer camp and the impact on kids.
Children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are often categorized as those who: have limited attention spans, experience difficulty making friends, are always moving (fidgeting, rushing off, unable to sit still), prone to blurt things out, and are challenged in following directions despite understanding what has been asked. Of course, this is not a comprehensive list. As any parent of a child with ADHD knows, the typical school year can be a strenuous time, often riddled with disciplinary measures as their child struggles to fit into the structured environment of a classroom. There is limited time for revisiting directions, re-directing attention, or helping children with ADHD to calm impulses and gather their energy to focus on a given task.
Those diagnosed with Autism, or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), also experience “challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication”, according to the national advocacy group Autism Speaks. The number of children impacted by Autism is increasing, with the Centers for Disease Control currently estimating at least 1 in 59 youth are affected by the disorder in the United States. The CDC also notes that Autism affects members of all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups. Neurotypical students can find those with ADHD or ASD to be annoying, strange, falsely assume they are intellectually challenged, etc. all as a result of the increased time needed for their task-orientation and unconventional behaviors. Youth with such diagnoses may experience judgement, bullying, and/or feel excluded from peer groups because of their behaviors and a lack of understanding among mainstream youth, parents and faculty.
Effective treatment programs are needed for youth with ADHD and Autism. As described above, there is a high likelihood of negative social implications for youth with either disorder, along with often lower academic performance, but additionally there are high financial costs and parental/familial stress. Fabiano, G. et al (2014) concluded in their research that “the lifetime costs of treating ADHD approximate the costs for major depressive disorder and stroke”. The authors noted the costs fell in numerous categories: those spent responding to medical care/needs (ER, pediatric offices, urgent care), academic attention (tutoring, repeating grades, specialized programming), costs to the family by way of lost wages (staying home to supervise, transporting to/from programs if public transportation is not appropriate), and costs associated with fines/juvenile judgements. This financial strain can take its toll on any family, not to mention on the caregivers themselves, who may find it too great to bear. Families with youth diagnosed with ADHD have higher rates of separation and divorce (Fabiano, G., 2014).
The good news? Despite all these gloomy stats, there are numerous ADHD summer camps and Autism summer camps in which families can enroll youth, which are proven to be effective in helping to manage behaviors and symptoms. These ADHD and Autism summer camps can help mitigate some of the burden, and provide diagnosed youth with skills, confidence, and independence to develop successful adaptations for everyday social situations as well as increase scholastic performance.
Here are some of the key benefits of summer camp for youth with ADHD and Autism:
A 2017 article from Living with ADHD points out one of the key benefits of ADHD summer camp or Autism summer camp – structure! Youth with either diagnosis simply thrive in a structured environment. Specialized summer camps understand this and provide clear, outlined overviews of campers’ time so that they can prepare, review, and anticipate what is scheduled to come next. Trained counselors guide campers through their expectations and are available at small ratios to take as much individualized time as needed to ensure campers are comfortable with their schedules. While the general experience of ADHD summer camp or Autism summer camp can be totally new, with new settings and people, new activities, new directions, that does not mean it is lacking in structure. Campers can take comfort in knowing where their bunks will be located, how they are situated, what to expect as a morning routine, daily as part of the activities, where and how meals will take place, and what an evening wind-down will look like day in and day out. In this way, ADHD summer camps can provide the structure and routine that a school-free summer may otherwise be lacking.
Unplugging and Spending Quality Time Outdoors
The Nature Conservancy conducted a national poll and found that only 10% of children spend time outside daily. Ten percent. One United Kingdom study found that children spend less time outside than incarcerated individuals (Gonzalez, 2019). We know that screen time can be particularly detrimental for youth diagnosed with ADHD and Autism, yet these are the very ones using electronics the most. One 2018 study found that early exposure to electronic media, such as under age 3, can result in “neurochemical and anatomical brain changes”, largely manifested in damage to neurotransmitters and reduction in melatonin (Hermawati, D., et al). The study further noted that children who spent more than three hours per day in front of a screen experienced “language delays, short attention span and hyperactivity”. Despite these concerns, many of us who are parents are guilty of giving electronics to our children as a means of keeping them occupied so that we can complete our daily tasks – finish a project, wrap up a little more work before the day’s end, or simply get household chores done. This screen time, however, can be significantly impairing our children, particularly those with ADHD and Autism. And, we’ve learned the challenges of taking screens away. Many youth with the disorders find comfort in the predictability of the electronic world, taking safety in the black-and-white rules of online gaming and shelter to hide from the judgement of the real world.
Getting kids outside at ADHD summer camps and Autism summer camps can be life changing. This is not an exaggeratory statement, rather it can literally increase their confidence and social skills exponentially with every new obstacle overcome – and by the simple fact that they were able to unplug from their electronics and remain device-free over the course of their summer camp stay! Youth can engage in their environment in new ways: completing both short and long hikes, building their own nature shelters, partnering with fellow campers to play team sports, kayaking, canoeing, taking their first jump at the camp’s BMX park, fighting to remain afloat atop an inflatable in the local pond, and simply kicking back to identify shapes in the clouds above.
As noted, Neurotypical peers can be very judgmental of youth with an ADHD or Autism diagnosis. Often their limited eye contact, solo preferences, limited understandings of social engagement rules, and/or outbursts can be difficult for peers to accept. Teachers or faculty in mainstream settings may not know how to work with youth with learning disorders and may often punish them in failed attempts to take control. This may cause youth with ADHD and Autism to be unfairly ostracized from school groups and activities, or labeled as the “difficult” ones. These labels and stigmatizations are lifted at a specialized summer camp. Youth with ADHD are able to bunk with similarly abled peers, and those with Autism find themselves able to learn and practice social norms within the context of an Autism summer camp. Counselors are highly trained in working with diagnosed youth and there is opportunity to engage in therapeutic activities to help increase social confidence, abilities, and mastery. Many campers report making at least one, if not several, new friends. These friendships often last past the days of their ADHD or Autism summer camp.
Increased Confidence and Independence
Imagine your son or daughter returning home from ADHD summer camp excited to show you what they had learned. Yes, excited! To demonstrate something new to you! Or take over some aspect of their life that they had not previously been able to do. Exploring new outlets and learning new skills at Autism summer camp can help youth diagnosed with ADHD and Autism gain confidence and thus independence as they practice and master their new skills. Campers are assisted with their daily routines, however they often start taking on more and more themselves as they realize just what they can accomplish. They may not have the comfort and home-support they are used to, but they also begin to understand just how much they are capable of completing on their own. Counselors are available to help navigate and reinforce any new learning appropriately, and parents/families can support new skills once youth return home.
If you’re ready to explore ADHD or Autism summer camps further for your son or daughter, reach out and talk with us today! We encourage you to bring your questions, concerns, and will happily provide further resources and/or put you in touch with previous camp families. We also highly recommend visiting our camp to see firsthand where your son or daughter will be spending quality time, learning skills, and making lasting friendships.
Fabiano, G. - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4788789/
Our Professional and Highly Competent Staff
One of the many reasons why we are the favorite choice among campers and parents is our staff. The success of our camp is based on the passion and dedication towards the work we do from every staff member we have.
Most of our staff members are college students and students who graduate recently. Each and every one of them is experienced and has a degree in psychology, outdoor leadership, and etc. As the leading ADHD Camp families choose we have thousands of applications, and we can choose extremely qualified staff. They know how to best work with children with Aspergers syndrome and they were selected to be on our team because of their compassion, good judgment, and skills to deal with every type of a situation.
Amanda Howell is our admissions counselor and she has been working as a counselor since she was 17 years old. According to Amanda, there is no greater joy than watching all the memories and experiences each child creates at our Aspergers camp Florida families love. As Amanda says, the camp can definitely change your child’s life and it will help him or her grow in a way that every parent will be proud
Testimonials from Parents – What Parents Have to Say about our Camp
We are grateful for your hard work and patience with my child. We can notice so many amazing changes in his behavior and the way he deals with everyday situations. He is his brothers are getting along better than ever before! We definitely will visit you next year! – Talisman Parent
It is so nice to know that there is a place where my child can feel comfortable. I only regret that I didn’t find your camp sooner! -Talisman Parent