Last weekend my wife and I dropped off our 16-year-old son, Andrew, at summer school camp. He'll be there for 6 weeks.
In June, Andrew and I went to Chicago and Milwaukee, where we saw 5 baseball games in 6 days. We visited with Scott Eyre, a relief pitcher with the Chicago Cubs who has publicly discussed dealing with his AD/HD. (See the December 2003 issue of Attention magazine.) Andrew has matured a lot this past year. He and I are good traveling companions, both focused on the various dynamics within the game of baseball. We are blessed to have a common interest; it allows us to better bond and build memories for a lifetime.
Andrew first attended camp just before his 13th birthday. We researched and located a camp specializing in serving a special-needs population, with a long history of operations without problems and a high staff-to-camper ratio. We tried a 10-day mini-camp orientation to see if he liked it, and Andrew admitted that he had a good time. A shy, quiet guy with a history of difficulty making friends, Andrew had previously had only a few friends. He was smiling broadly when we picked him up that first year, because of his new friendships. The next few summers he attended the camp for six weeks.
Our purpose in sending Andrew to camp was to increase his social skills and friendships, and to allow him to engage in activities difficult to offer at home—such as canoeing, hiking, banana boating, camp play, and other social activities with kids his own age. Andrew even attended a minor-league baseball game while at camp.
Now we are sending Andrew to a summer school camp at his new school. Andrew will be 17 in October and begins 11th grade this coming September. Following academic and social failures in 9th grade, and his resulting depression, unhappiness, and defiance at home, we decided to place Andrew in a boarding school for kids with special learning needs. The school had a 66-year history and serves no more than 80 kids, half boys and half girls. This was an excellent decision for Andrew’s 10th-grade year. He passed all his courses, made friends, increased his social skills, participated in team sports (as must all students at the school), and improved his independent living skills and personal hygiene—although these remain challenges to work on. He is a happy guy, with challenges and frustrations typically faced by all adolescents.
We based our decision to send Andrew to a summer school camp on several factors. He faces required competency tests for high school graduation and continued learning difficulties. At home, he does not exercise regularly and misses his friends. We wanted to further his social and independent living skills development. Summer school camp means that Andrew goes to school with his regular school teachers in the morning and enjoys camp-like activities in the afternoons. And he gets to attend a minor-league baseball game. Andrew was looking forward to going back to this “comfort zone.”
A July Washington Post article, "Kids Learn To Get Moving: Summer Camp Fits Fitness Along with the Fun," states that the typical kid gains more weight in the summer than during the school year, according to a study in the April American Journal of Public Health. Though my wife and I exercise regularly, and Andrew and I got some exercise during our baseball trip, his tendency when at home is to play electronic games, watch baseball, and use the Internet to keep up with baseball games and statistics. At home, his best friend enjoys playing electronic games and does not enjoy sports and physical games. A regular exercise program, including team sports, is an added motivation for summer school camp. Andrew loves team sports, particularly basketball and baseball, but he is developmentally awkward and can't play with the regular athletes in his home community. At his school, however, everyone has challenges and everyone plays. Andrew really enjoys this.
Every family has to work through decisions about school and camp placement. They aren't for every kid and every family. Economics influence a family's chance to take advantage of these opportunities. As CHADD CEO, I am very proud that for our second consecutive year, CHADD has provided summer camp scholarships, so that kids with special needs and limited economics can have the camp experience. We are blessed that our family has choices, and these choices help Andrew learn, grow, and mature.
Enjoy your summer.