By Jim Castrataro
Many parents struggle with the question of what to do about their children’s medications, specifically ADD and ADHD medications, during the summer months. Although I am not a doctor or medical expert, I can give you my perspective as a camp director and some simple steps to take to ensure your child has a fun-filled camp experience.
First, speak with the camp director to clarify the daily schedule and possibly identify the counselor who will be in direct contact with your child. Although many full-time camp directors have plenty of experience with children with ADD and ADHD, the camp counselor may only be 18 or 19 years old and sometimes even struggling with the same issues your 8- to 10-year-old may be having. This is not to say your child is not safe, but the level of experience can vary greatly from counselor to counselor.
Next, take into account the duration of the camp. Is it just a three- or four-day camp or a multi-week overnight camp? To put this in perspective, think about how long you worked with teachers, doctors and consultants to properly diagnose, work through issues and begin to process and create a workable solution for your child. The relatively short amount of time a counselor is in contact with campers makes it not only difficult for the counselors to learn the group’s dynamics, but individual issues, as well.
After speaking with the camp director there is still yet another level of expertise you can go to. By law, each camp in the state of Massachusetts must have a health care consultant on staff to help the camp directors manage the many physical forms and immunization documents. Although the health care consultant may not have immediate knowledge of your particular situation during your first call, he or she is there to help manage the medications and implement protocols. Furthermore, by HIPAA Privacy Act guidelines, the camp counselor will most likely not be aware of any of the medical issues of your child unless authorized by you, the parent or guardian. This granting of permission can be achieved through the health care consultant, and it is important that you are comfortable and in full knowledge of the camp’s written plan for your child.
From my perspective, parents of children with ADD and ADHD sometimes feel the physical activity offered in a summer camp setting may allow them to be a little more lenient with medications that reduce hyperactivity. I urge all parents to also understand the timespan and experience of those in direct contact is significantly reduced and it is important to look at both sides of the equation while implementing the appropriate plan of action.
Jim Castrataro is the director of summer programs at Babson College. His experience spans 16 years directing and consulting a variety of camp programs for thousands of children and young adults ranging from 5 to 18 years of age.