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.

Camp success, boy with binoculars, camp

Shira Nayman says that her son Lucas' ADHD makes him easily distracted, and that this inattention factors heavily in choosing a summer camp for him. "I wanted my son to have all the adventures that spirited boys enjoy, but in a safe environment. He's fun-loving and active, but I worried about his safety at a mainstream camp."

Distraction wasn't Shira's only consideration. Having him -- and his ADHD -- be accepted and appreciated were also high on her list. "We sent him to another camp when he was younger, but the counselors were nasty to him. They'd say, 'All the other kids can stay organized, what's wrong with you?' I never wanted him to feel that way again. Luc deserved to go to a camp where they'd see him as a smart, able little boy who has trouble with certain things."

Shira thought that the Learning Camp, in Gypsum, Colorado, was the perfect fit. The motto at the Learning Camp is: "We celebrate you and help you function."

"I wanted Luc to learn at summer camp that some things in life are going to be a challenge for him, but he can't use that as an excuse," says Shira. "If he wants to be a scientist, he has to learn to compensate — and not say that it's hard. I also wanted him to learn to celebrate who he is — and not to wish he were a different person."

Luc loved summer camp. "He took part in lots of old-fashioned stuff, like marshmallow roasting and telling ghost stories. He turned a truck into a float for the Fourth of July parade, dressed up for '80s night, and had adventures going white water rafting, rock climbing, and hiking."

It wasn’t all fun and games. Campers worked three hours a day on academics. "Luc had a wonderful teacher at camp, who gave him a game plan for what to work on during the school year," says his mom. "Luc came home a more compassionate person, with a stronger sense of self and the ability to rise to a challenge.

"Luc told me after he returned home, 'Mom, it was the adventure of a lifetime!' This cracked me up, since he was 10 at the time! When I asked him if he would like to attend a science camp the summer after, he said, 'I want to go back to the Learning Camp. They really understand me there!'"

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

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