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Last Updated: 03/18/2018


Article of Interest - Summer Camp

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Summer Camps for Kids with Learning Disabilities or AD/HD, February 25, 2004

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The end of the school year is fast approaching and if camp is part of your child’s summer plans, it’s time to start looking. Choosing a summer camp is tough for any parent, but add learning disabilities (LD) or Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD) into the mix and the search can become downright overwhelming. Fortunately, with a little planning, your camp search will be manageable and you’ll confidently select the right summer program for your child.


The first step in a successful search is a clear understanding of your child’s needs and goals for summer camp. Think about why you want him to attend camp. Talk with your child about his wishes and worries and keep these things in mind as you investigate. Kids with learning and attention problems often benefit from being involved in extracurricular, non-academic activities in which they excel, to offset school’s negative impact on their self-esteem. This summer you might want to give your child an opportunity to explore a little. This offers him a chance to master something new, discover a long-term interest, or make new friends.


Second, learn the differences between the types of camps available. Decide which characteristics best suit you and your child. Finally, ask a lot of questions. Talk to camp staff and past campers. Don’t hesitate to raise questions about any issue that is important to you or your child.

Types of Camps

  • Residential (Overnight) Camps: Campers sleep and eat all meals at the camp.

  • Day Camps: Campers are transported to camp each day and return home at night.

  • Travel/Adventure Camps: Campers backpack, travel on horseback, or experience a variety of adventures at these away-from-home camps.

Choose the type of camp best suited to your child’s personality. Does he adapt well to new situations? Is he likely to get homesick? Is he ready for an extended separation from his family?

Camp Focus and Activities

  • Traditional camps focus on outdoor activities, sports, and crafts.

  • Academic camps emphasize learning, often focusing on a specific subject such as math, science, technology, or reading.

  • Special needs camps cater to children with a disability, medical issue, or other concerns.

While academic and special needs camps also include some traditional camp activities, the emphasis will be on the camp’s mission. Your choice should be dictated by your goals for the summer. Do you want your child to spend time with other kids who have LD or AD/HD, or do you prefer a more mainstream environment? Do you want some time spent on academics, or are fun and socialization what your child really needs this summer?


Finding Camps


Once you’ve decided on the type of camp that’s right for your child, narrow the search to specific camps. To get started, check the summer camp resources we provide at the end of this article. Also ask for camp recommendations from your personal resources, such as:

  • Friends and neighbors

  • Parents of your child’s classmates

  • Your child’s school

  • Local community service organizations

Evaluating Camps


Request brochures from camps that fit your needs. The brochures will give you information about dates, costs, camper's ages, and activities. Remember, though, it’s the staff that brings the camp to life. Contact the camp director to ask specific questions. Use your discussion to get a feel for director’s personality and philosophy. Here are some topics to discuss:

  • Camp Philosophy and Goals: Some camps encourage a competitive environment, while others foster cooperation and interdependence. Be sure the camp’s atmosphere is compatible with your child’s personality.

  • Staff Background and Training: Ask about the director’s education and certification. Find out the ages of the counselors and how they are chosen and trained.

  • Counselor-to-Camper Ratio: The American Camping Association recommends one counselor for every eight campers, but a lower ratio might be better for kids with LD or AD/HD.

  • Problem Handling: Get specific information about camp rules and how problems are handled.

  • Parent Visits: Ask if parent visits are allowed, both at day camps and residential camps.

  • Special Needs: Find out how special needs are handled. For example, if your child is taking medication, ask who dispenses the medicine and how the schedule is ensured.

  • References: Always request references and contact past campers.

Beyond these basic questions, discuss with the director any issues of special concern to your child, such as:

  • The camp’s experience with children with LD or AD/HD.

  • Group size and age mix for activities.

  • The ratio of structured to unstructured time.

You know which accommodations in your household and at school help your child succeed, so address these with the camp director. By keeping your child’s strengths, needs, and interests in mind throughout your camp search, you’ll be able to choose a summer camp that addresses your concerns and is fun for your child.


Summer Camp Directories

National Organizations & Resources


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