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Top 10 Reasons Summer Camp is a Good Idea for ADHD Kids

10. Nature is the best teacher.

As in the poem by Dr. John Celes, “Nature is the best teacher we know.” It’s true. Nature can teach us more about ourselves than any classroom. When a camper looks over a mountain to an amazing scene of water and beauty below, it is surely stunning and reminds us that we’re a part of something much bigger than ourselves. It fosters a sense of humbleness and humility that just isn’t taught in schools (though they may try to!) Seeing a deer eating grass in a clearing can instill a sense of kindness and nurturing of other creatures. There are so many ways that nature can teach us, and these being just a few! With the guiding hand of staff and camp directors, kids can really gain a lot from this bountiful resource.

9. They get to channel their energy into something fun and active.

As a parent of a child with AD/HD, you may know that it can be difficult to find good activities for your son or daughter. At camp there is a plethora of activities for them to channel their energy into! Whether it’s going on a long hike, snorkeling in the Caribbean or learning to take care of a llama, there are a ton of things that we do to get kids active in positive ways!

8. Organizational Skills.

You may or may not know this, but organization is key to being outdoors, just as it is back home. This is something that’s integral to what we teach at SOAR. We have short, comprehensible lists for kids to follow that we call “the essentials,” we help kids organize the important things in day-packs and the bigger stuff in their regular backpack, and we help kids budget their spending money to make smart decisions rather than impulsive ones. For kids with AD/HD, I’m sure you can agree that these are very useful skills that are transferable to real life!

7. There are things you learn outside the classroom and home.

Apart from obvious things like rock climbing, surfing and scuba diving, there are a lot of things that kids can learn at SOAR that they just don’t learn at school and home. Independence, responsibility, organization and so much more.

6. Fosters independence.

Away from parents and teachers, in the “outside” world, kids learn how to become more independent. At home this can translate into brushing their teeth without being reminded, cleaning their rooms, offering to cook something we foster at SOAR. At school this can turn into more focused attention, homework being turned in on time and class participation. Independence is a necessary skill for adulthood, and that’s something we foster at SOAR. Being away from the family and school for a period of time really helps develop this skill.

5. Learning responsibility.

At SOAR, kids are responsible for many things. Their belongings, their feelings, the adventure, and in some cases their medication. One of the strategies we use for kids who aren’t wanting to take their medication is to put the responsibility in the kids’ hands. We’ll say “okay, we won’t bother you until 5pm about your medication, and if you haven’t taken it by then we won’t get to go fishing today,” or something similar. This counter-intuitive method actually works a majority of the time! When giving kids responsibility, they can do amazing things.

4. Beautiful friendships.

Being on an epic adventure with 8 strangers for 10-26 days can really bring kids closer together. The friendships that the kids at SOAR make can last a lifetime, and many of them do. We’ve been around for nearly 40 years, and some of the original kids in our early years are still friends to this day. Watch this video from SOAR Director John Willson about Danny and a friend who comforted him when he was feeling homesick.

3. Understanding things about themselves they never knew.

When the course is complete, we have kids fill out an evaluation, which includes things like “which course would you like to try next time?” and “how was your staff’s performance?” In addition to questions like that, we ask a very important question: “What did you learn about yourself?” The answers to this question are astounding! Kids say a variety of things, from simply “a lot,” to “I learned that I’m epic and AWESOME!” to more specific things like “I learned that I’m a good rock climber,” or “I learned that I like to snorkel.” The most touching ones however, read “I learned how to make friends more easily,” or “I learned to be more confident.” It’s truly remarkable to read all of these amazing things that kids learn in our programs.

2. Kids become more confident.

That leads us to number 2 in the countdown. Kids become more confident in a summer program. Through all of our courses, kids will learn this major piece. Whether it’s on the High Ropes Course at our Balsam Base in North Carolina, catching humongous fish at our Florida location, or riding a horse in Wyoming, kids learn a lot of great skills that all boil down to this. When they get home they transfer their confidence into their schoolwork, the house chores, their intelligence, their friendships and so much more.

1. A great experience that kids will remember for the rest of their lives.

This one really speaks for itself. Summer adventures can be an unforgettable memory that will stay with your child for years and years to come.

Live Purposefully – A Reflection

Join Big John Willson on a beautiful reflection of perseverance, purpose, and achievement.


I had a top ten experience the summer of 2000, one of those amazing opportunities that leaves you breathless, invigorated, and rejuvenated.  I had the very good fortune to summit Mount Katahdin, the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail, in Maine this summer with a wonderful group of students.  The day began at 6:30 am as we rolled out of our tents into a world filled with clouds, mist, a spattering of rain, dashing our hopes of a beautiful summit day.  At nearly sea level we had over 5,000 feet of elevation to gain before reaching the summit.  As we embarked on this tremendous journey, the sun came out and filled our morning with spectacular terrain, lush mountain foliage, and breathtaking vistas.  We worked hard as we ascended upward with each step, and by mid morning felt we were making excellent progress.  Approximately 12:00 noon we summitted and to our dismay realized it was not the peak of Katahdin.  We had not yet traversed the ridge named “The Knife’s Edge”.  We debated the merits of continuing onward and upward, or having reached a respectable goal, descending the mountain.  A vote of 4 to 7, and we forged ahead toward the elusive summit. 


Immediately we realized “The Knife’s Edge” was an entirely different beast.  This daunting and intimidating ridgeline spans 2.5 miles of rocky outcroppings, and requires climbing moves to complete a successful traverse.  This band of adventurers continued to advance on the precious goal of the summit.  The weather changed bringing mist, rain, and its very good friend wind. Howling, knock you down and laugh at you wind turned this day hike into an epic journey of humans testing their spirit and will, and finding the courage and strength to realize their goals.  “It must be soon now” I said, “Surely we are almost there.”  Our bodies reminding us that we are not mountaineers, screaming to stop, to rest, to abandon this assault on our abilities.  Then at 2:30 pm suddenly, through the mist and clouds, our goal was there staring at us.  We had climbed to the top and we were courageous and proud, and most amazingly triumphant.


We had overcome fear, self-doubt, and a daunting physical barrier to achieve our goal.  We stayed together supported one another, and would not be deterred.  I am still so proud of my summit team Drew, Max, Ryan, Andy, Joey, Eric, Jeff, Andrew, Mike, and Mark.  Thank you for reminding me why it is so important to live purposefully.

Life Success Attributes by Indy the Cat – Goal Setting

Meow, it’s me again…You know, Colonel Indy the Camp Cat. I’m back in action to talk a little about the next Life Success Attribute -Goal-Setting. I took a little time this morning to flip through SOAR’s staff manual to really understand how SOAR uses Goal-Setting to create a successful experience for your camper.Image

SOAR Students are encouraged to utilize a challenge-by-choice model. This model creates a degree of empowerment as students make choices regarding their participation.

Our campers and students have the opportunity to participate in our high ropes course at the Balsam Base Camp. Each participant set a personal goal when approaching the high ropes course which will be accepted and encouraged by their instructors and group. Some students will set a goal to complete the entire course blind-folded 5 times. Others will set a goal to put on a harness and climb to the top of the ladder then come back down. Whichever goal is set, it must be attainable and realistic.

SOAR students are involved in the planning process of their daily schedule, menus, program itinerary and activities in which they choose to participate.

For each menu and each program the overall group goal is to create and prepare well rounded and healthy meals. With these parameters our instructors help guide the group to set attainable food goals based on the following questions….How many days will we be out on expedition? Do we need to pack food in our backpacks? How many meals are we prepping for? Is everyone’s dietary need met? With these questions, the large goal becomes a little smaller and attainable.

SOAR students learn the APIE process, and systematically evaluate choices and decisions, both in discussion and in meetings.

APIE is an acronym used most with team development activities that provides a foundation for the rest of the summer program.

Assess – the situation. Each person can provide a strength.

Plan – map out the challenge and think through what is needed to complete that challenge.

Implement – Try the plan.

Evaluate – Did the plan work?

SOAR students are encouraged to divide projects into smaller and manageable components.

When presented with the opportunity to go backpacking, many students will automatically stonewall thinking the activity is daunting. However, backpacking in the most minimal and manageable activity. The group sits with a map and picks the area in which they want to explore. They then take that overall plan and break it into realistic distances to hike each day. Again, make each goal attainable.

SOAR students develop 3 goals to work towards during their time at SOAR, and individual reflections with instructors helps monitor achievement towards their stated objectives.

SOAR is a success based program. In fact, SOAR stands for Success Oriented Achievement Realized. You, your camper, and your camper’s instructors will all discuss 3 realistic and obtainable goals, yes ones that will challenge your camper. You know them best, you know their social skills, where frustrations manifest, their academic needs, and SOAR is here to assist in overcoming these “obstacles.”

I know my goal is to get as much tuna as possible. Well I have realized that I have to earn it and with that I create daily goals – give my owner just enough positive attention, know when other staff members aren’t available to pet me, remind myself that Chelsea’s lunch is not mine also, etc. I invite you to also use these tools in your home to create attainable goals. Signing off, Colonel Indy.