Picking a Summer Camp for Kids with ADHD

By Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D.

Summer is a great time for kids with ADHD to explore creative, athletic, and academic interests and make friends outside of school. Kids with ADHD struggle socially and academically throughout the school year. So, even more than most kids, they need access to summer programs that allow them to test out new skills social, athletic, artistic, and academic skills in a warm, safe environment.

Your child’s summer plan should be two-fold. First, it should include camp experiences that allow them to do the things they already enjoy and develop new skills by trying out sports and arts that they’ve never done before. Second, it should include an educational plan that will keep them from backsliding over the summer. Kids with ADHD need academic support year round to maintain their skills and be prepared for school in the fall.

This week we’ll talk about strategies for finding the right summer camps and social programs for your kids. Next week, we’ll talk about how to avoid academic backsliding over the summer.

As all parents of kids with ADHD know, finding the right summer camp is challenge! Here are some things to look for in a camp that’s a good fit for your child:

  • Does the camp have activities that my child is excited about? Kids with ADHD are most focused and often at their best when they are engaged in activities that they find interesting. So, have your child come up with a list of fun things they’d like to do at camp this summer, and search for programs that have at least some of these activities.
  • Look for camps that have a small staff to student ratio. Kids with ADHD typically need a bit more supervision than kids without ADHD. If your child tends to struggle socially in new settings, having more counselors around will help them catch problems early, before they escalate into crises.
  • Look for camps that have a high level of structure. Kids with ADHD tend to struggle most during unstructured time, so in most cases, the more structure the better.
  • As a parent, you know your child better than anyone. Think about your child’s strengths and weakness. How would you like to see them grow this summer? For example, would you like to see them become less shy and more comfortable around kids their own age? Would you like to see them improve their good sportsmanship skills? Or would you like them to be in a setting where the adults are more positive than their teacher may have been last year? Choose a camp that gives your child a chance to explore and work on these areas.
  • Once you’ve narrowed down your selections and have made your list of growth goals for your child, contact the camps. Talk to them about the strategies they use to manage behavior, how they facilitate friendships or handle social conflicts, how they structure their days, and the camper to counselor ratio. When it comes to managing behavior, make sure the camp is using praise, positivity and earning privileges, as opposed to things like time-outs and removal of privileges as punishments for kids. Look for camps that have games and activities that help kids get to know each other. Also look for camps that pay attention to the differences in individual children and pair them up with teammates, bunkmates and partners that are well suited for each other.

Most importantly, the camp should be someplace that both you and your child are excited about!



Mary Rooney, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California San Francisco. Dr Rooney is a researcher and clinician specializing in the evaluation and treatment of ADHD and co-occurring behavioral, anxiety, and mood disorders. A strong advocate for those with attention and behavior problems, Dr. Rooney is committed to developing and providing comprehensive, cutting edge treatments tailored to meet the unique needs of each child and adolescent. Dr. Rooney's clinical interventions and research avenues emphasize working closely with parents and teachers to create supportive, structured home and school environments that enable children and adolescents to reach their full potential. In addition, Dr. Rooney serves as a consultant and ADHD expert to Huntington Learning Centers.


Huntington Learning Center is the tutoring and test prep leader. Its certified tutors provide individualized instruction in reading, phonics, writing, study skills, elementary and middle school math, Algebra through Calculus, Chemistry, and other sciences. It preps for the SAT and ACT, as well as state and standardized exams. Huntington programs develop the skills, confidence, and motivation to help students of all levels succeed and meet the needs of Common Core State Standards. Founded in 1977, Huntington's mission is to give every student the best education possible. Call us today at 1.800.CAN LEARN to discuss how Huntington can help your child. For franchise opportunities please visit www.huntingtonfranchise.com.

This website does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The material on this site is provided for educational purposes only.

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