July 14, 2008

Only if you hate the summer camp counselors of America...

Should Parents Take ADHD Kids Off Meds in Summer?

Although their intention may be to avoid sticking their child with a "problem" label at camp, the effect is often just the opposite; counselors and camp directors, who review all campers' health forms before a session begins, are more likely to misread a camper's disobedience as insubordination or a discipline issue if they don't understand the disorder behind it. Jeff Freedman, the director of Camp Winaukee, an all-boys' sports camp in New Hampshire, says that's the case for a handful of his campers each summer: a boy is having a hard time following directions, Freedman calls the parents, and the parents say they forgot to mention that the child is typically medicated for ADHD.

I've got news for you sneaky parents. We always knew exactly what you had done.

Many camp activities, such as water sports or archery, can be dangerous if kids aren't paying enough attention, says Walton. And a child with ADHD may have a harder time dealing with camp's intense social environment if he is taking a hiatus from his regular treatment. Beyond the effect on campers, Walton says drug holidays can also put an "unfair burden" on the counselors. "It's difficult to ask someone who's just meeting your child, just forming a relationship and trying to keep them safe and happy, to do that if the kid is not at his best."

For some ADHD kids, medications help with social interaction, allowing them to better read social cues and exercise self-control. Carrie Wilkerson says—with maternal adoration, of course—that when her son Mark is off his meds, "it makes him very, very annoying." He chatters uncontrollably and laughs nervously at inappropriate times, she says. And that kind of behavior probably wouldn't go over all that well at a campfire sing-a-longs.

1 comment:

Sally said...

Ugh! We had THREE kids whom we labeled 'challenging' the first day of camp this summer. After handing out the necessary number of 'warnings' and calling parents, we found out that they were all taken off their meds for the museum summer camp. Sure, take your kids off their meds and then let them wreak havoc around the world's largest children's museum all summer. Awesome. We told them we wouldn't allow them to return unless they were on their meds. We did orienteering in the woods, fossil digging and swimming, all of which kids need to be way freakin focused... I hated saying it but it had to be done. Ugh.

-Sal