Promoting Growth at Summer Camp

3 summer programs that offer fun, friends and learning to children with ADD and learning disabilities.

Summer Camp, Part 3

"My son was a mess," is how one mother described her 10-year-old before he attended NYU's STP. "He was bouncing off the walls. He was miserable in school." This year, she says, they've continued to use a daily report card (an STP ritual), and the boy has seen great improvement at school.

Currently, STPs are held only at a handful of sites in the nation (see "Picking a Camp Program"), and children who attend them must have a place to stay locally. (Some kids who attend STPs far from home have been permitted to stay with their family in a nearby Ronald McDonald House.)

Then there's the expense: STPs cost up to $8,000 a session. Some parents are reimbursed by their health insurer. Others get financial assistance elsewhere. "Don't rule out an STP because you think it's too much money," says Karen Sunderhaft, former academic director of an STP operated by the Cleveland Clinic. "Check your options. Knock on doors."

Summer sessions at boarding schools

What about ADD children who would benefit from a structured, supportive environment but who don't really need the intensive intervention offered by an STP? The best choice may be a summer session at a special-ed boarding school.

A typical boarding-school program lasts six weeks and offers a choice of academic courses, as well as structured evening and weekend activities. Given the first-rate facilities available at many of these schools (swimming pools, athletic fields, libraries, laboratories, and so on), such programs are often more attractive to children than "regular" summer school.

These programs - usually open to visiting students as well as children already enrolled in the school - can be great for children who need just a little help with their study skills.

A typical day at one of these programs might involve four academic classes and four electives, such as photography or mountain biking. The classes can be challenging, but low student-teacher ratios, minimal distractions, and behavior-modification programs help ensure a positive experience. Afternoons are devoted to outdoor recreation or sports. Evenings might feature club activities, such as cooking or karaoke. Weekends are spent on field trips and other organized activities.

Eagle Hill is one of the few schools in the nation to offer summer programs for ADD kids. Others include the Landmark School in Prides Crossing, Massachusetts, the Parker Academy, a day school in Concord, New Hampshire, and the Oak Creek Ranch School in Sedona, Arizona.

Like STPs, these programs are expensive. The cost of a six-week session can exceed $8,000. (Eagle Hill will be charging $6,560 for the 2006 summer session.)

Camps with an academic twist

There's a third option - one that combines the "regular" sleepaway camp experience with limited academic instruction. This can be good for children with mild ADD (kids with behavioral disorders typically aren't allowed) who are willing to accept a little help with their study skills.

At the Learning Camp in Vail, Colorado, campers spend three hours each morning on academic subjects. But the "classroom" is outdoors, in the fresh air. Once their coursework for the day is completed, the children spend afternoons involved in traditional camp activities, including horseback riding and swimming.

"When she comes back from camp, it's spectacular," says Alexis Ofenloch, of Scottsdale, Arizona, whose 13-year-old daughter, Marisa, has spent the last three summers at the Learning Camp. "She was very shy and not assertive, and she learned to speak up for herself and become her own advocate. She comes back ready to hit school like gangbusters."

This article comes from the February/March 2006 issue of ADDitude.

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TAGS: Summer for ADHD Kids, Camp for ADHD Kids

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