Promoting Growth at Summer Camp

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

ADD/ADHD Summer Camp ADDitude Magazine

Summer programs can be a booster shot to get them ready for the next school year.

Andy Lopez-Williams, Ph.D.

Like all parents, those whose children have ADD want their kids to enjoy summer camp. But parents of ADDers want more. They want to know that - along with having fun and making friends - their kids will get the support they need to hold on to the academic and social skills they worked so hard to attain during the previous school year.

Fortunately, parents can now choose from a variety of camps designed just for kids with ADD. For children who need just a bit of support, there are classic "campfire camps" that add limited academic instruction. Then there are the academic/recreational summer programs offered by certain boarding schools.

Finally, for children who need lots of support, there are highly structured "summer treatment programs." STPs - first developed by psychologist William Pelham, Jr., Ph.D. - offer typical day-camp fare, but in a "therapeutic environment" that stresses academic skills and behavior modification.

Tremendous gains

Summer ADD programs can be of great benefit to the kids who attend them, experts say. "You're always trying to close the gap between kids with ADD and their peers," says psychologist Andy Lopez-Williams, Ph.D., who is working to establish a summer ADD program at the Psychological Center in Providence, Rhode Island. "Summer programs can be a booster shot to get them ready for the next school year."

Parents share Lopez-Williams's upbeat assessment of the programs. So do the kids themselves - although some are initially wary of any camp that offers therapy and academics along with swimming, hiking, and crafts.

The reaction of William Norris, an eight-year-old from Birmingham, Alabama, was typical. Two years ago, when his mother suggested that he attend a local STP, William asked, "School stuff in the summer?"

But William's mom, Vicki Norris, wasn't budging. "He was having trouble in school," says Norris. She wanted William to work at improving his study skills and organizational strategies - and wanted him to have a leg up when the next school year rolled around.

In the end, both William and his 10-year-old sister attended an STP operated by the University of Alabama - for two years in a row. "Both greatly benefited," says Norris. "But for William, in particular, the effect was almost miraculous." And, says Norris, both children had a great time.

"We had to sell it to my son," admits a Manhattan cardiologist, whose 15-year-old spent last summer at an ADD-oriented program offered by the Eagle Hill School, a coeducational special-needs boarding school in Hardwick, Massachusetts. "He wanted to go to a sports camp."

The boy wound up having a terrific experience. "It was just enough structure for him to be able to shine," the father says. Students woke up at 6:45 a.m., and set off on a day that emphasized academics and study skills, along with sports and other electives. Every weekend, the students left campus for special activities, such as deep-sea fishing.



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

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