Parents have different reactions and emotions about summer approaching, and selecting the right summer camp.  Some anticipate relief from busy schedules and a break from meetings and other school obligations. In addition, parents may be excited to be able to spend days outside where their active kids can get plenty of exercise. Some parents begin to worry about long unstructured days with battles over limiting screen time. For parents of children who struggle in school either academically or socially, there are worries about losing skills or falling farther behind. It’s not unusual for parents to have all of these feelings at the same time!

Children can also have a wide rage of reactions to summer. For example, they may be excited about not having to do homework or needing to get up early to go to school. They may say that they only want to play all summer long. However, even if kids don’t admit it, most benefit from having structured time during the summer.  Without structure, they may have a hard time figuring out what to do and complain about being bored. On the other hand, they may run the risk of becoming overstimulated or overtired because they don’t take the breaks they need.  Either situation can result in behavior problems and/or battles with siblings.

For parents of kids who struggle in school or in big, busy environments, it may be hard to think about them being successful in a summer camp environment. Parents may worry about their child’s social or play skills and ability to do well at camp activities. However, there are great options for summer activities that reinforce providing an adaptive environment that fosters success. This is important both for elementary and middle school age children. Within a supportive environment, children can develop positive experiences, while avoiding the academic, motor and social backsliding that occurs during long summer breaks.

When looking for a summer program for their kids, parents can consider several different points.  Based on the article, “8 Types of Summer Camps That Can Be Good for Kids with Learning and Attention Issues” from Understood.org. A good camp option is to seek out programs that work on social skills. “If your child has trouble making friends and fitting in you might want to look into camps that specialize in social skills issues. These camps are usually geared toward kids with certain learning and attention issues. These include ADHD, nonverbal learning disabilities and language processing issue. Kids enjoy typical camp activities. But they also spend structured time working on social skills.” Other programs that may be a good fit include camps that build outdoor skills, camps that build specific interests such as drama, sports or science, general camps with small group sizes, camps that focus on inclusion, and camps that focus on service learning. These camps provide the balance between structure and flexibility that your child needs.

After finding summer camp options, there are several questions to ask in determining the best fit. Will the camp boost skills to prepare for a great start back to school in the fall? Will it provide a challenge or new experience? Will it begin to build confidence? When making the choice, it is good to keep in mind balancing parent and child preferences.

After deciding on the best camp option, the next step is to get familiar with the program. Parents can talk about the type of activities and teach their children about what to expect. It may be good to visit the location to become familiar with the surroundings. If possible, parents and children can meet some of the staff or get a general daily schedule.

If you are in the process of planning for summer, we have put together some great resources for you.

  1.  CHADD (Children and Adults with Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder). This page has webinars and articles about summer camps.
  2.  From the Southpaw website is  the article Skillfully Scheduling Summer
  3. Look for camp options at your school district’s Community Bulletin Board such as this one from West-Linn Wilsonville.
  4. The Autism Society of Oregon Resource Page has summer camp and activity listings.
  5. Visit the New Horizons Wellness Services Summer Camps page to learn about our therapeutic camp options.