For middle-schoolers with learning and attention issues, summer camp can be a welcome break from the stress and struggles of school. Camp gives kids a chance to do what they love doing instead of what they have to do. And it allows them to explore new interests and become more independent.
When you’re looking for a summer camp for your child, start by thinking about who your child is. What type of personality does he have? What are his strengths and weaknesses? What does he want to focus on this summer?
The right program will meet his needs and interests. And it’ll also get him excited to learn and grow in new ways. To begin narrowing your summer program choices, ask yourself some questions.
How good are your child’s social skills?
Social differences become more obvious when children hit middle school. If your child’s learning and attention issues impact his social skills, choose a camp that can strengthen them. Is the program designed to help your child make friends? Do counselors and staff encourage cooperative games? Are there team-building activities or other social events?
Talk to the camp director and ask whether the staff has worked with kids who have social skills issues. That doesn’t have to be a deal breaker, though. Your child’s interests may be a more important factor. For instance, if he wants to get better at swimming and this camp is known for being great with nervous swimmers, he might gain a lot from the program.
How independent is your child?
Kids in middle school may be itching for independence. For one tween, that may mean going to a sleepaway camp several hours away from home. For another, choosing a nearby day program that lets him explore a hobby—like art or computers—at his own pace might be enough freedom.
Consider your child’s temperament. Is he a self-starter who can generally take care of his own needs? Or does he rely on you to keep track of his belongings and remind him what he needs to do? These clues about your child’s independence level can help you decide which program is the best fit for him. Just be sure to involve him in the final decision.
Is your child ready for new experiences?
If your child attended day camp or another summer program when he was younger, don’t assume he’ll want to continue with the same camp in middle school. For one, he may be developing new interests. Instead of day camp at the Y, he might want to improve his batting skills at the baseball camp held at the high school.
Summer programs can be a low-risk way for your child to try out a new activity. A positive experience a theater camp, for instance, may give your child the confidence to try out for the school play in the fall. Show him a few camp brochures so you can see what sparks his interest.
What’s the skill level of kids at the camp?
If your child wants to pursue a passion, make sure the camp isn’t too competitive. At this age, any camp with a specialty—such as sports, music or art—will be more competitive. Talk to a camp director to find out how skilled most kids tend to be and whether this would be a good fit for your child. You don’t want your child to feel like he can’t keep up.
Thinking about these types of questions can help you choose a summer camp that’s a good fit for your child’s interests and abilities. Check out possible camps carefully and make sure they meet your expectations.
Middle school is a time when kids grow and learn about themselves. A good summer camp program can help them do both.