Summer Plans for Children with Attention Deficit Disorders
Summer Program for Kids with ADHD
The NYU Child Study Center's Summer Program for Kids is a fun, eight-week, all-day therapeutic summer program for kids with ADHD, based on research effectiveness. See the bottom of this page for details.
The time for making summer plans is fast approaching. For children who coast through life effortlessly summer is a time eagerly welcomed. Children and parents have a choice of interesting experiences. While there may be some "jitters" as camp start date approaches, kids likely get through them with a parent's gentle reassurance that the "butterflies" are normal.
For children and families affected by attention deficit disorders, that is ADHD, with or without hyperactivity and impulsive behaviors, the approach of summer can be fraught with fearful uncertainties. Will the camp or program take my child if they know what he or she is really like? Will my child fit in? Will I get the dreaded phone call saying he hurt someone or that he can't stay in the program? Will the staff really know how to handle the tantrums and oppositionality? Will they be able to see the sweet struggling child underneath the gruff veneer? Will they "freak out" when they hear he is taking one or two medications? A child with ADHD may be as nervous as the parents about the unknown experience, especially if he or she had difficulties in camp-type situations in the past.
This article is intended to help you acknowledge and set realistic goals for your child's summer experience and to guide you in asking the right questions as you try to find a good fit between your child and a summer program. While the choices may be challenging, being honest with yourself about your child's strengths and limitations, and being proactive and honest as you talk with program administrators will serve you well in the long run.
Children with ADHD come in many wonderful shapes and sizes. No two are the same, have the same needs, or present with the same management challenges. Seek out professionals who understand and embrace this concept and who are determined to individualize the approach to your child. As you read this article, you will need to pick and choose those attentional and behavioral issues that are relevant to you. In general, children with attentional difficulties have difficulty sustaining concentration when tasks are inherently less pleasing and interesting to them, when other stimulating things are competing for their interest and attention, and when tasks require several sequential steps or multiple things to be done at once. They are particularly vulnerable when they must stop doing something they enjoy, inhibit responding, or wait to take action. They often have considerable difficulty transitioning from one activity to another, especially if it means terminating a highly desired activity, similar to when you want them to stop playing on the computer to get washed for dinner.
Sound familiar? Of course it does. These are the sorts of daily challenges that summer programs present to children as they must wait to use a saw in woodworking, put down the sand at the lakeside, stop playing ball to go home, put down the rocks on the trail, or deal with eating in a timely manner in a very loud, very active lunchroom. These children are often easily frustrated when trying new or challenging things, leading sometimes to aggressive, overly sensitive, vigorous responses. These difficulties in regulating emotions are apparent with peers, as well as with adults.
Your child deserves a positive, esteem-building experience and needs to be shielded from esteem-deflating, negative experiences. Many research studies have demonstrated that children with ADHD often have other bonafide psychological disorders adding to the complexity of who these children are and what their needs are.
Reprinted with the permission of the NYU Child Study Center. © NYU Child Study Center.
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