Children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) can bring many gifts to the classroom – including enthusiasm, energy and positivity. But their often limited attention span and impulsivity can present a special challenge on school excursions and school camps.
This feature looks at the best school excursion and school camp ideas for children with ADHD, and tips on how to ensure your activities run as smoothly as possible.
A classroom of children on a school excursion or school camp can be a hectic experience. Out of the classroom and into the wider world, children can be high spirited and loud – and may push the boundaries a little more often than they would in class!
The child with ADHD, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, is no different, but has the added elements that characterise the disorder:
Inattention – having difficulty concentrating, forgetting instructions, moving from one task to another without completing anything
Impulsivity – talking over the top of others, having a ‘short fuse’, being accident prone
Overactivity – constant restlessness and fidgeting.
Source: Better Health Channel, Victorian Government
Adding a child with ADHD to the excitable ‘mix’ of a school excursion or school camp can appear a daunting prospect, but it needn’t be.
By selecting school excursions and fun activities that better suit children with ADHD, and following a few simple guidelines, you can make your school excursions or school camp a success for everyone involved.
So what activities are best for children with ADHD, and why?
Most students, ADHD or not, love being outside – especially in nature settings. So whether you are planning a day excursion or thinking of camp ideas, consider outdoor activities that are likely to appeal to high energy children, such as cross country biking, aquatic activities or hiking. The biggest plus with these activities are that they are all go, go, go…..unlike more organised sports such as soccer or softball where there is more ‘standing around’ time.
Quick tip Scouting-style activities are particularly suitable for students with ADHD. Activities such as rope climbing, obstacle courses and orienteering are physical and highly structured – and use a range of different learning styles.
Swimming is an ideal activity for children with ADHD, as it involves constant movement, self-discipline and concentration. And like all exercise, swimming helps students – ADHD or not - burn off excess energy and stay focused!
Summer is here, and what better way to celebrate than with a water-based activity excursion or aquatics camp? Team sports – such as structured aquatics activities – offer all children, including those with ADHD, a chance to learn social skills and see how other children act in a cooperative setting. Activities that focus on team work rather than competition, such as sailing, are ideal.
Quick tip Children with ADHD can struggle with learning the rules, taking turns and cooperating with other children, so when you are dividing a class into separate activities at the beach or on camp, ensure children with ADHD are in an activity that genuinely interests them.
Simple, traditional games are great for shorter attention spans, and small, frequent wins can build self-esteem. Incorporate some physical activity into the game, such as ‘Simon Says’ and you’re likely to have a winner!
Teacher tip: TV and video games generally do not work for children with ADHD – and can actually decrease their attention span, so limit them in your activity schedule.
Music exercises both sides of the brain at the same time, training the mind to multitask better, making music-based activities an ideal ‘fit’ for children with ADHD. Interschool music events, such as choir, orchestra or band practice are generally winners for music-oriented children with ADHD.
Getting the best out of your school activities, school excursions or school camps
Follow these simple tips to give your school excursion or school camp the greatest chance of success:
Plan ahead Children with ADHD often don’t have a lot of patience, so plan ahead to counter this. For example, if you have planned a day trip to a popular sightseeing event that generally has long entrance lines, ring ahead and organise for your group to have priority access. If you can’t avoid long periods of ‘waiting’ time, have snacks on hand and perhaps a ball or small toy to keep children with ADHD occupied. Also ensure you have enough parent helpers on board to allow for extra one-on-one time for children with ADHD.
Be flexible. Remember that every child with ADHD is unique, and what works best for one child may not work well for another.
Smaller is better. Remember, when it comes to group activities, smaller often works better for the child with ADHD. Fewer students means less distractions and better focus – and more one-on-one support from teachers and caregivers.
Choose activities that build self-esteem. Select activities that are fun – and build self-confidence. Children with ADHD often struggle to ‘fit in’ at school or socially, so activities and excursions that focus on building self-esteem, such as sport, art or music, are important.
Remember to encourage and praise. Children with ADHD can be forgetful and may have trouble sticking with a task, so a little praise and encouragement from teachers and caregivers along the way can be invaluable.
Children with ADHD are more likely to accomplish the task at hand if there aren’t too many things competing for their attention.