Here’s an excellent article from Orlando Sentinel’s Summer Camp Guide (May 2017) with tips from Dr. Andrea Marraffino, Meridien Research, Maitland, FL.
Yay summer! No school. No homework. A less-active social calendar. That’s usually a great thing for kids! But when you have children with ADHD, summer can be challenging for everyone. Especially if they are transitioning from the classroom to summer camp! Read on for some tips to make things easier for you and your child as they head off for new adventures.
1. Enlist their help with camp selection
There are so many camp choices available these days – computer camp, space camp, drama camp — there should be no lack of selection. Let your child help determine where they will spend the summer. Parents of ADHD kids should try to find a camp where children will have the opportunity to play with kids their age, have similar interests, and structures a consistent day-to-day routine. And camps don’t have to cater exclusively to children with ADHD. For some children, a summer long commitment to the local YMCA might be a good choice. For others, they may like the variety of several different camps that only last a few weeks.
2. Maintain a normal schedule
Your child is probably on a strict schedule during the school year, getting ready in the morning and doing homework and after school activities in the afternoon at the same time in the same place. Try to keep a similar schedule during the summer. Children with ADHD who don’t have a structured day or week can get into trouble because they try to create stimulation. Keep bed and wakeup times consistent. Try to get your child to the rec center or club at the same time each day and avoid skipping. Keeping your child in the schedule mindset will make readjusting to school again easier.
3. Keep a visual calendar
Kids with ADHD tend to thrive on predictability and can be prone to panic over transitions. These types of children benefit from a family calendar posted in a central location. This could include camp start dates, field trips, weekend adventures and appointments. Depending on your child’s developmental level, pictures can also help your child to know what to expect in the coming days.
4. Practice calming exercises
Summer camp brings new activities, locations and authority figures, all of which can be stressful. Before bringing your child into a scenario that might overwhelm them or cause them to act out, practice thinking through their responses. Do yoga or deep breathing exercises together to stave off stress, anxiety and excess energy. Physical exercise before stimulating or boring situations can also help discharge excessive energy and release endorphins and other calming brain chemicals.
5. Keep communication lines open
Before starting any camp, be sure to communicate the needs of your child with the camp staff. Become a partner with your child’s counselor. Don’t go in with a set of things you “expect.” Go in with the goal of creating a relationship that will support your child.
6. Make sure they can last the day
Everyone gets a little ‘hangry’ (hungry and angry) if they wait too long between meals. ADHD medication can suppress their appetite for both food and drink, so it is more important to offer frequent snacks and drinks to children with ADHD. Be sure camp counselors know about your child’s needs and supply drinks, fruit and other healthy treats each day. And it can’t hurt to throw in a few extra treats for the counselors!
7. Be encouraging
Use positive reinforcement to remind your child that you believe in them and are proud of them, to help prevent acting out. Tell your child that you recognize and appreciate good behavior when it occurs. Use the time in your car going to and from camp to engage in positive conversations.
Summer camp should be a fun experience for everyone. By practicing these tips, you and your child can have a good time and ease right back into school come fall.
Dr. Andrea Marraffino, is a Principal Investigator at Meridien Research in Maitland, Florida. She is a psychologist and has conducted dozens of pediatric ADHD studies. For more information on research participation, please visit www.NewStudyInfo.com.