+ Finding a Summer Camp for LD Kids

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In the latest issue of LDA Newsbriefs, John Willson and Jonathan Jones offer suggestions for parents who are considering a camp for their LD and AD/HD children this summer.

The message Willson and Jones offer:  You have a choice! 

If you do the research, you will discover that there are many and varied programs designed to meet the needs of children diagnosed with attention deficits and learning disabilities.

Is your child’s concern self-confidence?  Social skills? Problem-solving skills?  Academic achievement? You can find programs whose counselors know how to bring out the best in your child. 

There are programs that focus on children’s abilities and utilize encouragement and positive reinforcement.  They will help your child work on important life skills as they provide a rich summer camp experience. 

These camps know that what these kids need most is a break — a vacation from failure.  They need to experience success.  They need to be measured against their abilities and not their “failures.”

Say Willson and Jones

The summer months are a critical time for ensuring sustained growth in the following areas: self-esteem, organization, social skills, problem solving, and communication.  Likewise, the summer affords numerous opportunities to provide learning experiences  directed at developing strengths, abilities, and interests, as the academic year does not always allow for such development.

 Step one, they say, is clarifying what your child may need.  If he  needs to maintain academic study, there is a camp.  If  an academic camp would just offer too much stress, choose a program that offers low-key camping experiences without that pressure. 

If your child requires a more structured experience, with careful research  you will  find one that provides what you need.  There are situations that are specifically designed around the needs of youth with LD and/or AD/HD.

You can find a summer program that will emphasize the development of strengths, because our young people often have been “schooled in their deficits” but not their strengths and their gifts.

Step two, the authors suggest, is considering  the needs of your entire family.  Think about everyone’s respite needs, the siblings’ situations, and your financial situation.

Sometimes family members benefit from time away from one another, and some families need more respite time than others.  Parents often feel more than a little guilt about needing a time-out from their children.  However these breaks are healthy for parent and child alike.

Summer camp not only allows the child to develop independence, but allows parents the chance for personal renewal.  It is also worth noting that some parents have had success claiming a camp experience as a deduction on their taxes, especially it recommended by a therapist as a continuation of treatment.he third step is identifying the continuum of available services.  Since summer camp programs come in many different formats, pay attention to what is offered.  Some offer both emotional growth and academic tutoring.  Other focus on developing strengths while also encouraging growth in deficit areas such as organizational skills and social skills.

Step three: identify a continuum of available services.  Summer camp programs come in various formats: they may support emotional-growth with academic tutoring.  Or they may focus on developing strengths while encouraging growth in deficit areas such as organizational or social skills . 

There are day camps, sleep-away camps, travel programs, and high adventure expeditions.

Session lengths can vary from one week to ten weeks with every conceivable combination in between.

The key, they say, is matching one or more of these available resources with the needs of your child and the needs of your family.


  • Look for programs with a low ratio of direct care service staff- to- student.  (Parents are not always made aware of this right.)
  • Determine the qualifications of all direct service staff.
  • Examine the typical profile of a child attending this program.
  • Discover how the program accommodates for your child’s specific LD and AD/HD characteristics.
  • Ensure there is a medication distribution protocol.
  • Determine what type of feedback/evaluation system is utilized.
  • Learn how staff handles problem behaviors.
  • Ask how the staff deals with homesickness.
  • If your child wets the bed, ask what accommodations are in place to provide support.
  • If you have special dietary concerns, ask what dietary modifications are in place or available .
  • Contact the camp references if they are given to you.  Make sure to ask specifically for names and phone numbers of two families with a child similar to yours; contact them.
  • Find out if the program is accredited by either The American Camping Association (ACA) or The Association of Experiential Education Association (AEE).
  • Important — ask your child to develop his or her own  list of questions that they can ask the camp representative.

Finally, write Willson and Jones, make sure that you have at least two options from which your child can choose.  They might be two completely different programs or two different sessions at a given program.  

Make sure your child feels ownership by folding him or her into the decision-making process .

sole source: John Willson’s and Jonathan Jones’s article in the Manuary/February 2011 issue of LDA Newsbriefs.  LDA Newsbriefs is published five times yearly by LDA, Learning Disabilities Association of America.  It is included in your membership dues.  Visit http://www.LDAamerica.org

The American Camping Association (ACA) Web site is http://www.acacamps.org/   The Association of Experiential Education Association (AEE) is at  http://www.aee.org/

tutoring in Columbus OH:  Adrienne Edwards   614-579-6021  or email  aedwardstutor@columbus.rr.com


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