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THE SOAR BLOG

Creating Positive Camp Experiences for Girls

Boys (13.2%) were more likely than girls (5.6%) to have ever been diagnosed with ADHD.

Boys (13.2%) were more likely than girls (5.6%) to have ever been diagnosed with ADHD.

ADHD in Boys vs. Girls

Research shows that boys are more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than girls. But many people feel that girls simply go undiagnosed, as they often do not present the same signs or symptoms as boys. This can make school, peer relationships, and interactions at home difficult, especially during the teen years, and can often lead to low self-esteem. This summer we had a group of horseback riders who pretty accurately represented the range of teen personalities, and how they can sometimes clash at first. The girls began their SOAR adventures all at different places, from best friends excited to be back at camp to “I just want you to know that I was forced to come here.” However, over the next 12 days, things began to change.

Maxine and Emma go to the same school back home and attended SOAR's Llama Trek course last summer. To say that they were excited to arrive at SOAR for Horseback Riding would be an understatement. They were so excited!

Maxine and Emma go to the same school back home and attended SOAR’s Llama Trek course last summer. To say that they were excited to arrive at SOAR for Horseback Riding would be an understatement. They were so excited!

Making Positive Relationships

It is fairly common for our campers to struggle with the label of a learning disability, and part of the SOAR experience is to show them that they have a learning disability but their learning disability doesn’t define them in any way. During these crucial pre-teen/teen years, it is so important for young girls to develop positive relationships with other girls–friends to talk to, be silly with, and grow with–but it is easy to let labels get in the way. Being in a place that allows you to be yourself freely, helps girls do this, or at least learn how to do this.

 

During downtime after the day's ride and before dinner, the girls (and boy) got makeovers! One of the girls took the lead with makeup and let each of the girls in the group know that they are beautiful!

During downtime after the day’s ride and before dinner, the girls (and boy) got makeovers! One of the girls took the lead with makeup and let each of the girls in the group know that they are beautiful!

Starting on day two of camp, the girls started to realize that their differences weren’t that big and the only thing really holding them back from one another were their own preconceived labels. After a few conversations about their favorite type of music and a makeover session, the dynamics of the group transformed, for the better. This is not to say that they didn’t still have their differences or disagreements, but part of their growth was learning to accept these things and move on as friends.

Tips to Take Home

Being at camp makes it easier to try new things, meet new people, and step out of your comfort zone, but there are things you can do at home to help improve your child’s self-esteem and create positive friendships.

  • Encourage your child to recognize the significant achievements of adults who learned to live with LD and ADD. Teddy Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Charles Schwab, and Tom Cruise are but a few. Conduct research together on this topic.
  • Highlight your child’s successes at school by posting their “best work” each week on the refrigerator or some other place of prominence. This may or may not be the piece of work which received the highest mark during the week. Grades are often not a true reflection of the energy your child puts into their work.
  • Begin using “Thoughts for the Day” or “Thoughts for the Week” which have an inspirational theme. Encourage your child to post them in their room or on their notebook. Involve them in selecting the “Thought for the …”. They might even want to keep a written, audiotape, computer or pictorial journal of these thoughts. This is an adaptation of “positive self-talk” which can be a source of great encouragement during periods of stress.
  • Help your child write an “affirmation statement” which they read daily. Have the statement reflect their strengths and accomplishments, future goals, and a more immediate goal.
  • Be prepared to be your child’s praise effort as much as the end product or result. LD and ADD characteristics often frustrate us from doing our best work. Perseverance is critical!!
  • Be careful not to compare children. Be prepared to meet their individual needs. To treat them fairly, often means, not treating them equally. Modifications and accommodations must be made on a case by case basis.
  • Encourage your child to be satisfied with a small group of close friends.
  • Encourage your child to choose only friends which encourage positive behavior. Monitor their friendships closely. Do not hesitate to disallow contact with “friends” who are encouraging misbehavior.
  • When a social interaction is unsuccessful, be prepared to conduct a “social autopsy”. The “autopsy” has four parts: a) identifying the social error, b) discovering the cause of error, c) determining the damage, d) preventing re-occurrence.
  • As an experiential learner, your child will probably not pick up social skills or social cues automatically. Be prepared to teach social skills by direct instruction, role playing, and supervised practice.
  • Encourage pro-social behavior by sponsoring a “sleep-over” for a few of your child’s friends or encouraging your child to invite a friend to the movies. Such events on your “home turf” allow for increased supervision and monitoring. They also allow your child to operate from a base of confidence.