Campfire Confidence: ADHD Summer Programs That Build Skills and Confidence

These ADHD summer camps offer more than canoe trips and S'mores. Here's how three ADHD boys built up self-esteem, social skills, organization, and academic strategies at sleep-away camps that made a difference.

Life Is Good -- Again

Nolan Turner, age 13, has ADHD and dyslexia, and struggles with executive-function deficits. Traditional schooling wasn’t meeting his needs, so his parents put him in the Academy at Soar, in Balsam, North Carolina. After a semester there, they signed him up for Soar summer camp last year.

"We hadn’t considered a boarding school or a sleep-away camp for Nolan," explains Martha Simmons, Nolan’s mother. "But one of his teachers called the house, looking for incomplete homework assignments. Nolan turned to his dad and asked, 'Can my life get any worse than it is?' That's what made us consider camp. Life shouldn't be that bad for a 12-year-old."

Since Nolan’s mother was familiar with the Academy at Soar, she was confident that Nolan would benefit from its summer camp. "We hoped the program would help him with his executive-function deficits, disorganization, and self-esteem challenges,” says Martha. "Soar met these challenges through outdoor activities and strict academics. Nolan was empowered, and he went out of his way to help the new campers, who were unsettled about being away from home."

Soar offers adventure activities for kids who feel they can’t succeed. Outdoor adventures, like rock climbing, gave Nolan the confidence to try other things. He also enjoyed the responsibility the camp counselors assigned him. At Soar, a child has a different leadership role each day. One day he might have to cook, another day he might have to clean. Nolan discovered that he liked being in charge of creating dinner menus and cooking for his campmates.

Nolan also learned strategies to help him get organized and complete schoolwork. "As soon as Nolan came home, he said, ‘I need a watch and an alarm clock,’ and gave me a list of other items he would need to stay on task!" says Martha.

Everyone in the family noticed Nolan’s new can-do attitude, especially his siblings, who wanted in on the fun. They will be attending Soar later this summer.

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TAGS: Summer for ADHD Kids, Camp for ADHD Kids, ADHD Social Skills

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