6 Essential Summer Camp Criteria for Kids with ADHD

written by Ryan Wexelblatt, LCSW, posted on Attitude Magazine

The right summer camp experience pushes kids in all the right directions — toward new friendships, new challenges, and new perspectives. In my experience, camp can be a tremendous confidence builder for kids with ADHD, who may otherwise automatically say “no” to anything unfamiliar. Campers are often more receptive to stepping outside of their comfort zones when they’re doing so among a supportive peer group of kids with whom they have no social history. The value of this “social reset,” when it goes well, can’t be overstated.

Of course, we can’t assume things will go well.

Sadly, every year I hear from parents of children with hyperactive/impulsive ADHD who were asked to leave camp. In most cases, the overnight camp was not equipped to support the child — and the parents didn’t realize this until it was too late.

Even campers with inattentive ADHD face unfortunate consequences when a camp doesn’t understand ADHD. Often, these kids are not required to participate in activities and, since they rarely cause problems, they end up wandering around or sitting off to the side alone. That is not the point of camp.

When parents ask me how to evaluate whether a summer camp will serve their kids’ needs and interests, I encourage them to favor programs that involve physical activity, which benefits the body and mind. While some kids with ADHD prefer to sit in front of a screen all day, I do not recommend camps that revolve around screen-based activities.