Summer is just around the corner, so it’s time to start thinking about summer camps for your special needs child. There are many exciting opportunities for summer camps, and many are incredibly specialized — many camps offer summer programs to positively affect teens with issues such as ADHD, autism, Asperger’s, obesity, learning differences, and behavioral problems.
While your child might struggle in traditional summer camps, these specialized camps can provide the experiential therapy your teen needs.
Camps for ADHD and Autism
Consider wilderness therapy for a child with ADHD — these camps help your child learn better concentration skills while also encouraging appropriate and healthy social interaction. These programs also help your child deal with internal conflicts and emotions; sometimes these programs can reach your child from a different angle than traditional parenting or therapy. Wilderness therapy includes equine therapy, ropes courses, community outreach, fishing, hiking, rafting, and other outdoor activities. Activities provided in these camps help treat angry or defiant behavior, out-of-control or impulsive actions, anxiety or mood disorders, low self-esteem, which are associated with diagnoses of ADHD and autism, among others. “Green Time” camps offer structured activities as well as some freedom, and the structured social interaction promotes friendships and relationship-building.
Weight Loss Camps
There is a certain stigma regarding weight loss camps, but many doctors agree that these camps can help get your child on the right track regarding their personal health. Weight loss camps should teach habits and lifestyle changes that your child can take with him even after the camp is complete. Find a camp with health professionals, such as doctors, nutritionists, nurses, and psychologists. Good programs will set attainable goals and will consider the personal likes and dislikes of each individual. Group dieting and exercise is also a great motivator, and the individuals in the program do not have to “go it alone.” By changing habits, many campers continue their weight loss and healthy habits long after the camp.
While both boot camps and wilderness camps combine outdoor activity and therapy, boot camps tend to be more physically challenging and mentally demanding. They typically apply military-style techniques, and for extreme behavioral issues, these camps might be an option to consider. It is important to learn the philosophy of these programs, read testimonials and reviews, and weigh the pros and cons. Wilderness camps tend to be more nurturing, and children are not pushed beyond their capabilities. Residential programs might be another welcome alternative for teens with behavioral issues, such as drug behavior, truancy, and lack of respect.
Most successful camps for troubled teens have a high ratio of counselors to students, which ensures your child will receive the proper care and attention. Also check for accreditation and if the staff of the program is certified or holds particular degrees or experience. Look for a camp with a combination of activity and therapy, so your child continues to get a well-rounded experience even away from their traditional therapy sessions. Consider your goals and your child’s needs and desires — ultimately, you want your child to have a positive learning experience where the skills learned in the summer camp will translate to their daily lives.