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Summer camp/summer school

Should My Child Talk About His Learning and Attention Issues at Camp?

By Jim Rein

My son has ADHD and dyslexia. Should he tell people at camp about this? I don’t want the other campers to treat him differently. But I also don’t want anyone to be caught off guard if there’s an issue. What’s your advice about whether to disclose learning or attention issues at summer camp?

Jim Rein

Former Dean, Vocational Independence Program, New York Institute of Technology

Camps are made up of two types of people: the campers and the staff members. My advice on what to say depends on which of these groups you’re talking about.

Let’s start with the staff. It’s important to let the camp know about your child’s special needs and to share any strategies that have been successful at home or at school. It’s best for you to share this information before camp starts. It’s also a good idea to talk with your child ahead of time about the adults he can approach at camp if he’s struggling with something and needs help.

Whether he should talk about his challenges with other campers is more complicated. It depends how comfortable he is with his challenges. Also, how well he understands them and how accurately he can describe them.

Ideally, you want his first conversations with his bunkmates to be about the things he likes to do and the interesting places he’s been. Common interests or experiences can help set the stage for friendship.

If his behavioral challenges are impacting his relationships with other campers, it may help for him to explain to them why certain things are happening. A good plan is to have him ask his counselor for advice first. It can be helpful to get the counselor’s take on whether to tell the other campers. If your child decides to tell them, he can ask the counselor to be there when he does.

It may be helpful for your child to mention a few famous people who have learning and attention issues. Humor is also an effective tool. There are many ways you can prepare your child for summer camp. One of them is to talk with your child and help him understand that if he is comfortable with his challenges, there is a better chance that other people will be comfortable with them too.

About the Author

Portrait of Jim Rein

Jim Rein

Jim Rein, M.A., has lectured around the country on postsecondary options and summer programs for children and young adults with learning and attention issues.

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