Sending Your Child with RAD to Summer Camp

About a month into summer break, most parents can’t wait for those two blessed words…Summer Camp.  The knowledge that you are sending your child to summer camp which means a week of peace and quiet for you with no responsibilities is like winning the parenting lottery. But for parents of kiddos with RAD, that may not always be a possibility. Let’s discuss some of the precautions to take and some of the possible pitfalls. I’ll start with a story about August and camp.

August went away to camp for a week when he was in middle school. At that point he was on three different medications which he took both at night and in the morning. I remember standing in line to drop off the medications and thinking if he gets half these pills in him it will be a miracle. I also remember thinking that when I was growing up, I don’t remember knowing any kids who took medication. This line was huge! And it didn’t even include the kids who were just dropping off inhalers. The child in front of us was dropping off Tums. I remember thinking, “What could be so anxiety-producing in your short life that you need a regular diet of Tums?” Now I didn’t know the whole story of this child but it just seemed odd. But I digress.

After we got him into his cabin and he found his bunk and we got him unpacked he was ready for us to leave. One of the few advantages of RAD; there is no homesickness or tearful good-byes. We couldn’t leave fast enough in his opinion. The next part became how much to tell his counselor. Enough to warn him so he’s not caught off guard but might make him not like August from the beginning? Or not enough so August gets off on the right foot but this young man isn’t prepared for what August can dish out?

Decision made to err on the positive, hugs and waves good-bye and prayers for no phone calls during the week. Pick up the next week didn’t seem to include any weird looks or need to pull us aside. The strangest part was August coming home with some other kid’s underwear…

So there’s the one big “pro” why camp is a good idea: a nice break for you, your child and their siblings. Here are some very real “cons” to consider:

  • Medication delivery
  • Camp staff ability to handle RAD behaviors
  • Schedule/routine disruption
  • RAD wanting same kind of entertaining/attention upon return home
  • Similar triangulation found with teachers or other professionals

If you decide that an overnight camp may not be right for your child at this time, a day camp might be a good alternative. Most cities have a variety of day camp options including general YMCA-type day camps as well as specialized camps dedicated to particular sports or interests.

There are also therapeutic camps designed specifically for RAD kiddos. For example, Nancy Thomas who is considered an expert in the field of Reactive Attachment Disorder runs a series of them over the summer. You can find that list here. I have no experience with them but if you do, please share in the comments It would greatly help other families. I would recommend looking at camps that are specific to RAD. They’re out there. Camps that cater to autism or general mental health issues or children with “behavior issues” are fine but as we all know, RAD is a whole different animal. Quite frequently even trained staff won’t have heard of it. 

I have added a resource page to the site where I will be adding lists of books, camps, treatment centers and other helpful tools as I come across them. If you have any to share, please send them my way. They are by no means endorsements but just a one-stop easy access place to see what’s out there. To head over there and see what’s there now (which isn’t much, don’t get all excited!), click here.

What it boils down to is you know your kiddo and your level of sanity. Would you rather stick it out another week with them at home or send them off to camp and spend the week on pins and needles hoping you don’t get that phone call? August did summer camp away three times I think and I never got the call. Doesn’t mean I shouldn’t have; just means I didn’t. 

Until next time,

Shannon

 

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