About SOAR

How can my child benefit from the SOAR program?

SOAR has a two-fold emphasis. First, we assist our participants in building self-esteem, self-reliance, and self-confidence. Secondly, we encourage our participants to develop critical life skills such as organization and time management skills; decision-making and problem-solving skills; communication and social skills; and frustration management skills. Participants then learn strategies which enable them to translate skills learned while on the program in to their everyday situations at home and in the classroom.

Is SOAR a therapeutic wilderness program?
SOAR is not a therapeutic boot camp or wilderness therapy program. Whereas these programs typically serve youth with severe behavioral or psychological issues or drug problems, SOAR serves youth who are generally well behaved, but may get into trouble due to impulsivity or social skill related conflicts.
What is the typical profile of a child attending this program?

SOAR serves youth and young adults, ages 8-25, with learning disabilities and/or attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder. SOAR participants generally enjoy the out-of-doors, are energetic and active, and thrive in a small group environment.

 Most SOAR participants are high functioning, intelligent, and struggle with issues such as impulsivity, disorganization, oppositionality, inattention, challenges with social skills, etc. Some participants may have additional diagnoses such as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Tourettes, high-functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder, or Pervasive Developmental Disorder, among others. Although participants may have experienced lowered self-esteem and academic frustration prior to attending SOAR, they are essentially well-adjusted individuals.

 In order to provide a safe, effective environment for participants and staff we do not accept students with active suicidal ideation/attempts, psychotic symptoms, acute/chronic violence, or active substance abuse issues. Participants with significant behavioral challenges are discouraged from applying. Medical conditions such as diabetes (insulin-dependent), epilepsy, cardiac conditions, or other conditions may prevent students from being accepted.

 SOAR welcomes youth and young adults diagnosed with ADHD and/or Learning Disabilities (and their siblings) of any race, religion, sexual orientation or identity, national or ethnic origin, and disability (assuming the disability permits safe participation in the essential activities of SOAR courses as currently defined).

What is the staff to participant ratio?

SOAR usually enrolls 7-8 participants per group with a 2 instructor staff team. In addition, each course is also supervised by a Course Director who maintains daily contact with each group and is there to assist Instructor staff as needed.

How do SOAR staff handle administration of medications?

SOAR staff receives extensive training on all aspects of medication administration, including information about the common types taken by LD and AD/HD youth, their purpose and contraindications, and a standard protocol for administering the medication. SOAR instructors will review your child’s medication information during the Inbrief process. It is imperative your child is sent with enough medication to last the entire course, plus two days extra.

What credentials do the instructors have?

The vast majority of SOAR staff are over the age of 21 and are working toward Bachelors or Masters degrees in Special Education, Recreational Therapy, Psychology, or a related field. All are certified in Wilderness First Aid and CPR and receive extensive training in all of our wilderness and adventure activities. All SOAR staff go through a thorough background check as well as training regarding child supervision and protection.

 Appropriate accommodation begins with knowledge and the SOAR staff team leaves no stone unturned in our search for information about LD and AD/HD. SOAR staff attend more than fifteen local, regional, and national conferences every year to stay updated on “best practices” in the field. With that said, we continue to be reminded that our best teachers are our students, and we have been learning from them for more than forty-five years.

How does the program accommodate for specific LD and AD/HD characteristics?

SOAR has taken everything we know about the characteristics of LD and AD/HD and designed a program that removes obstacles while building in springboards for success. As a result, we ask SOAR participants to set high, yet realistic, expectations and find ways to boost their capabilities to reach these goals.

 Staff are trained to understand and work with the specific characteristics common to our population, such as impulsivity, organizational challenges, lack of social skills, low frustration tolerance, etc. We use techniques such as redirection, natural & logical consequences, social autopsies, and behavioral self-analysis to help our participants develop greater self-awareness and coping skills for managing their specific set of ADHD characteristics.

How does the program identify and develop the strengths and abilities of the campers?
Many campers come to SOAR knowing much more about their areas of challenge and frustration than they do about their strengths and abilities. SOAR encourages them to focus on identifying and developing their talents and abilities by pointing out their successes throughout the course, by highlighting their strengths during one-on-one and group discussions, and by helping them internalize these strengths through public acknowledgements and self-affirmations.
How will I hear about how the course went for my camper?

Upon the conclusion of our standard SOAR programs, each participant / parent will receive a written summary that gives details of course activities, the successes that the camper had, the progress they made toward their course goals, and the strengths that the staff observed and encouraged. Finally, the summary will have strategies for you to use at home that we believe will support the continued growth and maturation of your child.

What is the behavior management philosophy at SOAR?
SOAR utilizes a variety of techniques to help young people get the most from this experience. We have found that utilizing our philosophy of natural and logical consequences, in conjunction with generous amounts of praise and positive feedback for successful performance, has been instrumental in supporting healthy behavioral dynamics at SOAR.
How does the staff deal with homesickness?
When a participant begins to struggle with homesickness we encourage them to write a letter home letting their parents know how they are doing, what they miss, and most importantly, what kinds of fun things are happening here at SOAR. This last step is critical, and generally facilitated one-on-one with a staff. The most effective cure to homesickness however, is making a friend. Very often a SOAR alumni can be called on to give some positive attention to a young child dealing with the homesick blues.
Is SOAR accredited?
SOAR is accredited by the American Camp Association (ACA), the nation’s definitive organization for summer camps. SOAR chose ACA accreditation because of the intense and rigorous standards it requires for its camps and because of the quality information it provides for parents seeking reputable camp experiences for their children. SOAR has been accredited by ACA since 2005. Prior to this, SOAR has been accredited by the Association for Experiential Education (AEE), the nation’s leading wilderness adventure/experiential education organization, from 1996 to 2005.


I'm interested in SOAR's programs. What is the next step?
  1. Feel free to call our Admissions Director at 828-456-3435, if you would like additional information on specific courses.
  2. Discuss the full range of adventure opportunity options with your son or daughter and determine which course or courses interest them the most or fits them best.
  3. Complete the online application here.
When should I apply?
It is recommended to apply prior to March 1st in order to secure your first choice of summer dates.
How will I know if my child has been accepted?
You will be notified via email, which will include the additional information needed to prepare for camp.
What if my child wants to stay for two or more courses?

Students are welcome to attend as many SOAR courses as they would like. Our Director of Admissions can assist you in putting together a series of courses to fit your needs and those of your child. Also available is the opportunity for students to stay at SOAR during the time between courses. This service is available for a fee to cover food, lodging at our base camp, and local tourist activities such as bowling, movie viewing, baseball games, and nature centers. Please let Admissions know about layovers as quickly as possible for staffing purposes.

Preparing For Camp

Does my child need a backpack or a duffle bag?

Some courses require a backpack while others are best suited for duffle bag use. Please consult your gear list to find out which is required for your child’s course. If the purchase of a backpack is restrictive, SOAR has a limited number of backpacks available for use on a first-come, first-serve basis. Please contact Admissions at SOAR if you would like to reserve one.

Do I need to buy everything on the gear list?

The gear lists were developed with careful consideration of the needs of each student depending upon the length of the course and the course environment. Therefore, it is vital to send everything on the gear list with your child in order to maximize their comfort, safety, and enjoyment while on course. Please consult our Gear Guide for additional information and guidance.

Is a passport necessary for International Courses?
A passport is required for travel to and from all International Courses.
What is the inbrief and debrief process?

The “inbrief” is an opportunity for you to talk with your child’s adventure camp staff prior to their arrival for a SOAR program. You will discuss what will take place on the course, review the student’s goal, and review any medications that the staff will be responsible for administering.

 During the “debrief” at the end of the course the staff will meet with you again to process your child’s experience at SOAR. They will review goal progress, your child’s success and accomplishments, and strategies for use at home.

What is the difference between a SSI Scuba Diver Certification and a SSI Openwater Diver Certification?

The SSI Scuba Diver Certification is an introduction to scuba diving and allows campers to receive a scuba certification in a shorter time. Campers attending our Christmas Keys SCUBA Adventure will work toward a SSI Scuba Diver Certification. In order to receive this certification campers must complete the required coursework, contained dives, and openwater dives. SSI Scuba Divers can dive under the direct supervision of a SSI Professional to a maximum depth of 12 metres/40 feet.

 The SSI Openwater Diver certification is requires more contained and openwater dives. Campers attending our FL SCUBA Openwater course will work toward their SSI Openwater Diver certification. In order to receive this certification campers must complete the required coursework, contained dives, and openwater dives

Camp Life

Will I get to see photos of my child?
Due to the outdoor nature of our programs, we are unable to post photos during the course. Our staff are often in areas with no internet access and do not return to base frequently during the course. All photos will be posted at the end of each session. You are always welcome to call us for an update on how your child is doing, and we will have the Course Director get in touch with you as soon as possible.
What kind of food will campers eat?

While on basecamp, our cook will prepare balanced meals for campers. While in the field, students prepare their own food (with assistance from staff) and are often involved in their own menu decisions. Some SOAR favorites are “Trail Pizzas,” stir fried vegetables and rice, macaroni & cheese, spaghetti, beans & rice, and burritos.

 SOAR endeavors to keep up with new information regarding nutrition and its affect on ADHD. With that in mind, we strive to limit food with artificial dyes and processed sugars. We can accommodate food allergies and preferences but will charge an additional fee for dietary restrictions such as gluten free and lactose intolerance.

Do all the kids sleep in tents?
Students on all SOAR courses sleep in tents except during their backcountry phase (e.g., backpacking). During the backcountry phase, courses use tarps due to weight considerations. While on base, campers will stay in cabins or cowboy tents.
How many nights will my child be at base camp?

This varies from course to course. Courses such as Academic Discovery and Llama Trek spend the most amount of time on basecamp with a total of 2-4 nights per week. Most courses only spend two nights (the first and last night) on base.

(See the daily course schedules for course specific information)

What if my child gets sick while out on course?

If your child gets sick while on course, you will be notified by staff if the condition is severe enough to warrant being seen by a doctor or if the staff would like to administer an over-the-counter medication (such as an antihistamine). If the student needs to go home, staff will contact you to make the appropriate travel arrangements.

For COVID-19 specific concerns, please see our COVID-19 page.

What do you do during a lightening storm?
All SOAR staff receive extensive training on handling situations such as lightening storms in the field. If the group is near their van during a lightening storm, the group takes shelter in the vehicle until the storm has passed. If the group does not have access to their van, students take shelter in a safe area such as a low-lying stand of trees. They are also instructed to sit on insulated materials such as their sleeping pads or backpacks. Students only return to their activities once the storm has safely passed.
What about personal hygiene needs while on course?
Personal hygiene times are structured into every course schedule. During these times, students are required to brush their teeth, change socks and underwear regularly, and wash their hands before every meal and after every bathroom use. Students are also given at least two shower opportunities during the course (more for longer courses). Throughout the course, they are encouraged to maintain basic cleanliness through sponge baths.
Will my child be able to have contact with home?

SOAR courses provide the opportunity for students to experience a certain level of independence and to encourage self-reliance. Therefore, students are not allowed to make phone calls home or send e-mails unless they are staying for multiple courses. However, students are encouraged to write home as often as they would like.

What if my child has a birthday while at camp?
We will celebrate your child’s birthday with a birthday cake. Additionally, parents may wish to send a special gift for their child.
What is the Refund Policy?

Although the deposit is non-refundable upon cancellation of a course, the fee may be used for another course during the current season or for a course during the next season only.

The balance of the tuition (minus the deposit) will be refunded according to the following schedule:

  • Prior to 60 days – Full refund
  • Between 30 and 60 days – 50% refund
  • Between 15 and 30 days – 25% refund
  • Within 15 days of course – No refund

Students may be removed from a course due to a variety of reasons, including injury or illness, behavior issues, family emergencies, or other factors. If a student leaves a course early, no refund will be given.

What is the spending money used for?
Spending money is course specific and is typically used for one meal out during the course and for souvenir purchases, as the opportunities arise. Staff will hold onto each student’s spending money until it is needed. Spending money will be invoiced along with the tuition upon enrollment in a SOAR course.