4 Transformative Summer Camps: ADHD Testimonials
ADHD/LD summer camps can positively influence a child for the whole year — and beyond. Read these parent testimonies about how summer camp gave their child new and lasting confidence, communication skills, and maturity.
For Casey Raymer, it was a midnight web search that led her to Soar, a summer camp that works with kids with learning disabilities and attention issues. She was searching for her nine-year-old son, Wilson.
“He’s never been successful in day camps,” she says. “We tried them all—academic, enrichment, and sports-related camps. He got kicked out of all of them.” Soar was different. “They said, ‘We understand that your son hasn’t been successful anywhere else, but he can be successful here.’ That was important to hear, because you never want to set your child up for failure.”
Still, Casey was worried because Wilson had never been at an overnight camp. “I’m accustomed to getting calls from day camps and schools, and the counselor says, ‘Mrs. Raymer, we need to talk to you about Wilson.’”
Three days into Wilson’s camp session, Casey got a call from Soar. “I said to myself, ‘Oh, no, here we go again,’ and my heart sank. But the camp counselor said, ‘I just wanted to let you know everything’s going great. Wilson is a great kid.’”
Since Wilson returned from Soar, the Raymers have seen big changes in their son. “Wilson used to get frustrated easily, and he gave up if he wasn’t good at something the first time he tried it. He blamed others when things didn’t go his way. After coming back from Soar, he was able to persevere when things got tough.
“At camp, he was asked to do things that were hard for him physically, and some that were demanding because of his poor social skills. But he realized he could do it. Now he can push through things that used to stop him in his tracks.” But that hasn’t been the only change.
Wilson advocates for himself a lot more, as well. “He can tell us why something may be challenging for him. I tend to talk quickly and I want others to respond quickly. He’ll say to me, ‘Mom, I need you to slow down. Please give me a second.’”
Wilson had a great experience at Soar, but he still has ADHD. He still has a behavior plan at school, and peer interactions are still challenging for him.
“But Wilson now has more strategies he can draw on to get through the challenges. It took a program like Soar to shine a light on some strengths that we didn’t see. It gave him a new lens through which to view himself.”
Finding the Gifts That Last a Lifetime
Evan McCarthy is a freshman at Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland. His camp journey started when he was 12, at Brendan Sailing Camp — a summer program that teaches children with learning differences the art of sailing, while building self-confidence.
Why Brendan? “Evan had a difficult time relating to his peers,” says his mom, Tara. His high energy and interests in technology were not in line with most of the kids at his school. We wanted him to be involved with kids his age and not feel like an outcast.” Combine that with his “strong interest in being on the water,” and the fact that “his grandfather is a sailor,” and you get the perfect match.
Over the years, she watched her son grow at camp. “Evan learned patience with others and gained confidence in himself. Working in wind, rain, and collaborating with different partners taught him how to follow directions and pay attention.
“When you’re on a boat on the ocean, a mistake has serious consequences. You need to stay focused and listen when instructed,” says Evan’s mom. The newfound ability to pay attention helped him in the classroom and with social skills.
The camp didn’t just change Evan; it changed Tara, too. “I saw the acceptance and patience from the instructors at Brendan Sailing. There were no judgments. They let him be who he was. This changed the way we relate to each other at home.”
After four years as a student, and a year as a volunteer helper, Evan earned his Level Two U.S. Sailing Instructor Certificate. He has spent two years as a paid instructor at Brendan, helping kids like himself find the gifts he came away with.
Brendan Sailing Program
“Look Out, World: Here I Come”
After a successful spring semester at Brehm Preparatory School, the Huyards enrolled their 16-year-old daughter, Lydia, in the summer session. Brehm Summer Program offered a little bit of everything the Huyards wanted for Lydia. “She developed her social skills, was willing to jump into new experiences, and retained academic skills she had developed during the school year,” says Wayne, her father. “Kids regress a bit during the summer break. Brehm made sure Lydia hit the ground running when she returned to school in the fall.”
Lydia’s father is happy about the changes he has seen in his daughter. “We see a big improvement in peer interaction. She seems more mature. She has learned to listen, and she isn’t shy about expressing her opinions.”
Brehm helped Lydia step out of her comfort zone. “At summer school, she was the first one to do the ropes course—you hold a line with your hands while walking on a rope stretched between trees. Nobody wanted to do it. She put on her helmet and said, ‘I’ll give it a try.’
“On Halloween, she told us she was on a bus on the way to a haunted house. In our family, we all get a little freaked about going to a haunted house or a horror movie, so we were all texting her back saying, ‘No, don’t go!’ But she went and enjoyed it.”
It was like watching a sprout bloom and flower. At the beginning of the summer program, Lydia was reserved and shy. Given time, she began to discover herself. Lydia came back from Brehm a confident, content, happy, mature young lady—and never looked back.
Brehm Preparatory School
The idea to create a summer mountain bike program at Storm King School, in New York’s Hudson Valley, came to me early in fall 2017, after a conversation with a colleague. My friend raved about the benefits of mountain biking for his 14-year-old son, who had been diagnosed with ADHD. He told me how his son’s symptoms improved. The boy had more focus in school and impulse control, and had shown improvement in executive function skills.
As I was driving back to the Hudson Valley, a lightbulb went on. This area would be an ideal spot for a summer mountain biking program at Storm King School. Its campus borders the Black Rock Forest, and it maintains its own mountain bike trails on campus.
As an educator in the field of dyslexia and a lifetime bicyclist, I started thinking about a summer mountain biking program for students with ADHD. With the support of the school, we developed the Focused Riding program, a two-week program, which will run from July 22 to August 2, 2019. The program focuses on four areas:
- Academic skill building: Students learn how to organize themselves and develop reading comprehension strategies and note-taking skills, all designed around the executive function skills program at Storm King.
- Mountain biking and daily exercise: Riding our campus trails, students learn the fundamentals of riding and bicycle maintenance.
- Limiting electronics: Students are busy learning and interacting with their teachers and peers, so screen time is limited.
- Healthy meal planning: Students work with an executive chef to develop meal plans to boost energy and improve focus.
On the last day of the program, the goal is for students to participate in a cyclocross race, which they have trained for in the previous weeks. In the pilot program last year, every child rose to the occasion. —David Mendlewski
Storm King School