Camps for kids with ADHD
Photos courtesy of Camp Kodiak
For many parents of kids with special needs, one of the big concerns is that their child won’t fit in and will have difficulty making friends. This is especially true for kids with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
In many cases, children with ADHD can exhibit behaviour that can make camp activities difficult. They could have trouble socializing and making friends, and also tend to be anxious and distracted.
There are some residential (sleepover) camps suited and designed for kids with ADHD and other learning disabilities. Many of them offer an array of activities in order to be flexible with kids’ interests and abilities. Non-competitive activities allow children to try their hand at things without the pressure of having to excel. This could lead to a greater sense of accomplishment for kids with ADHD and give them the confidence to apply themselves in other ways.
At Camp Kodiak in Ontario, owner David Stoch stresses the importance of grouping kids based on social ability and not just age. “We try to put kids together who are functioning at around the same level socially and who have similar interests,” he said. “Camp is an absolutely unbelievable experience for kids who are in a cabin where they fit in and click with the other kids. It’s a terrible experience when they feel like the only kid in the cabin who’s not accepted and who’s on the outs with his cabin mates.”
A camp with an academic program for students with or without learning disabilities, ADHD and autism, Kodiak boasts a ratio of one staff member for every two campers.
The activities are very structured, which is good for kids who don’t do well with a lot of down time. They include drama, photography, website design, chess, martial arts, first aid and red-cross lifesaving.
“The kids don’t show up (to an activity) and mill around, chasing frogs, so half the period isn’t wasted trying to get the kids organized,” Stoch said. “Everybody knows – we start training them on the very first day – when you go to an activity, the first thing you do is sit on the bench and wait for instructions.”
Stoch says they try to make sure that all of the kids have the opportunity to be successful in lots of different things, and are given a lot of recognition for their achievements.
“We just have to keep changing things up,” he said. “We don’t do the same thing for too long. By keeping things exciting for them, you keep them motivated.”
In team sports, an area ADHD kids may have had negative experiences, kids are assigned to positions with lots of action such as the pitcher in baseball.
“We also use our drama program as a vehicle for teaching social skills,” Stoch added. “We use role-playing and improvisation to teach kids how to handle some of the things they find difficult.” For example, he says they teach teens, who can be impulsive and seek instant gratification, how to say no to cigarettes.
Many of the counselors are teachers or social workers. There is also a doctor and three nurses to make sure children who need it have their medication administered to them properly and on time. Located near Moffat Lake in Ontario, it’s about a seven-hour drive from Montreal.
For more information, visit campkodiak.com.
3 other residential camps for kids with ADHD in Quebec and Ontario
For campers between the ages of 6 and 18 with learning disabilities, GymnO offers a residential camp with activities including canoeing and nature exploration in Rawdon, about 60 kilometres north of Montreal. A monitor is assigned to a maximum of four campers and there is one counselor whose only job is to coordinate and facilitate activities. GymnO caters to kids with anxiety, dysphasia, ADD and ADHD, epilepsy, Tourette’s and autism, among others. An occupational therapist ensures that the activities are appropriate for the children and their afflictions. For more information, visit gymno.org.
Another Ontario residential camp for children with autism, ADD, ADHD, OCD, Tourette’s and other learning or behavioural difficulties, Camp Kennebec offers academic tutoring, leadership training and waterfront and land activities, including waterskiing, water trampolines, canoeing, horseback riding, zip lining, archery and a variety of cultural options like woodshop, dance, art, drama and music. For more information, visit campkennebec.com.
Camp Kirk is a non-competitive residential camp for children with learning disabilities – or as one kid put it in a testimonial video, “learning differences.” In operation since 1993, Camp Kirk is located in Kirkfield, Ontario, and offers a wide array of activities including pottery, music, drama, archery, swimming and martial arts. For more information, visit campkirk.com.