An Inclusive Guide to Summer Resources

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An Inclusive Guide to Summer Resources

By Julie Khanna

with expert insights from Dr. Yong Sing da Silva and Marsha Thompson, M.S., BCBA

Summertime brings the chance to try new things, slow it down, break bedtimes, and make new friends while catching up with the old. It’s the most anticipated time of the year for kids, but with all the changes the pandemic brought about, another major shift in normalcy can prove incredibly stressful. We asked local experts to weigh in on how children, including those with anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and autism can have a positive experience in trying new camps over this summer’s seven short weeks.

ADHD

ADHD isn’t a one size fits all diagnosis. It’s important to speak to your child, and their healthcare provider, to determine which activities might be best. Some children will do better learning sportsmanship in team settings while others might benefit from isolated sports such as golf or archery. Either way, if your child has an abundance of energy to spend, sports can be a great outlet.


Art is also an often-overlooked option. Children with ADHD tend to have a creative side and are more likely to take creative risks. Keep in mind that not all art is traditional. Writing, theater, comedy, speech and debate are wonderful artforms as well. 

Some recommendations:

Summer Youth College because you can create a schedule around a few different interests which keeps things interesting.

Comm Arts Academy for kids wishing to express themselves through communications arts.

LIVE Music Community because you don’t want drums in your house.

Autism

Children with autism can safely attend camp but considerations should be taken. “There are questions and evaluations parents can ask to set their kids up for success,” says Dr. Yong Sing da Silva, a pediatrician at The Children’s Hospital at Palms West.  “It’s a good idea for parents to be proactive and vet these camps to make sure they have some experience in dealing with children that have special needs, especially with the quarantine since socializing has likely been even less than normal this past year,” he adds.

Parents should contact the camp ahead of time and request to speak with everyone that will be involved in the child’s care.

“It should go from the top down. Ask if the camp’s leadership has experience with special needs or autism and if the camp staff ratios allow for good supervision at all times. If it’s not a dedicated camp for autism, sensory perception issues, or special needs and it’s going to be a mixed population, you’re going to want to make sure there’s not going to be a lag in supervision and the child might be exposed to bullying or unpleasant peer pressure,” said Dr. da Silva.

If your child is non-verbal, you’re also going to want to make sure the camp recognizes signs of overheating if they’re planning on being outdoors during the south Florida heat.

“Looking at the child relative to their peers is important because the signs can be subtle. Signs that are common are general fatigue or weakness, slowing down, and confusion. So, if they were doing an activity at a certain pace and they start to slow down, or lag behind other members of the group, that would be a subtle initial sign. Skin flushing, rapid heart rate or breathing faster than peers are other signs. Nausea, vomiting and headache are nonspecific signs of dehydration or impending heat exhaustion. Even dry skin would be a classic finding that you might not expect. But of course other kids can be sweaty,” says Dr. da Silva.

“Also, make sure that the structure of the camp, whether a day camp or a sleep away camp, kind of gels with what the child is already used to,” adds Dr. da Silva. Consistent, predictable routines are important for children, and that includes continuing any therapies they’re used to during the year.

“Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy needs to continue during the summer unless the family is going away. Services can be provided in home, or at a special needs camp, and families should continue to follow the caregiver goals that are outlined in their treatment plan,” said Marsha Thompson. M.S., Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) with Living Soul, LLC, an ABA provider in Palm Beach County that takes a holistic approach to providing therapy in the home, school or community settings. 

Some recommendations:

Love Serving Autism is a tennis academy that has experience in working with children with autism.

Vinceremos Therapeutic Riding Center serves children and adults with physical, cognitive and emotional disabilities in Palm Beach County through equine assisted activities.

Bricks 4 Kidz encourages creativity, promotes learning through play, and sparks interest in science, technology, math and engineering.

Anxiety

Anxiety can strike any child, with ADHD, autism, or not, and add additional, unwanted stress. But there are things you can be doing at home that allow healthy outlets and even mitigate some of the anxiety. 

“Speaking to your child about what to expect at camp can be especially helpful, but it should be done in a positive, comfortable manner that allows for an open dialogue,” Dr. da Silva adds. It’s important to keep an open dialogue with the kids and not discount the fact that they may be feeling anxious and have some negative feelings. Use open ended questions and ask how they’re feeling about a certain situation instead of honing in on their anxiety. Be in an environment where they feel safe to share those feelings and redirect to the more positive experiences of camping and the fun stuff they’re going to get to do.”  

Bringing a piece of home is also helpful. “Kids tend to respond well to taking their favorite toy or stuffed animal that reminds them of home,” says Dr. da Silva.


No matter what you end up doing this summer, it’s important to remember that COVID is still a concern and that proper hand washing and basic safety precautions should be maintained. For those that are more comfortable remaining remote, there are lots of virtual options, and classes that can be taken at home over the summer for children and adolescents.

Some recommendations:


Boating safety and licenses for as young as 4-9 year olds

Florida Fishing Licenses for children ages 8-15 (youth licenses)

Virtual Summer Youth College that offers writing essentials, video game development and more. HAM Radio license

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Julie Khanna is the owner of Khanna Connections- a marketing, communications and relations firm with a niche in the medical, health and wellness industries. Connect today at Connect@khannaconnections.com