One of the most routine questions we need to address as parents and as the directors of Summit is whether it is a good ‘match’ in considering an application for Summit. In fact, parents/caregivers have a very good sense that Summit will be a good fit before the time they apply. Since the application process is significant, it is certainly our wish to give parents as much information and understanding as possible prior to starting an application with us. This is why very few applications to Summit end up being “denied”. Rather, the application process generally seeks to identify the best session fit, the best bunk selection, the supports needed at camp- aspects that are uniquely important to serving our populations.
Yet, while it is the most routine of questions that we address- there is no simple answer to whether a child or teen is a good ‘fit’ for Summit. Historically, Summit serves kids that have diagnoses such as ADHD/ADD, Learning Differences, and/or Asperger’s Disorder/HFA. However, not all youth that have such a diagnosis might benefit from Summit’s programs, nor are the programs limited to benefiting youth with any specific diagnosis. Summit has also been a good fit for youth that have mild tourette’s disorder, PDD-NOS, acquired TBI, and many other unique needs. This is because the underlying common factor in the campers and travelers who benefit from Summit’s environment is not about addressing a certain symptom or outcome of any diagnosis. Rather, Summit is a community environment for any and all children and teens that have been unable or would be unable to find social success of equality in a neurotypical community despite a cognitive and emotional desire to find that success.
This is broken down as;
- The child/teen comes from a supportive and caring setting (home, school, community) of adults whose intent is to provide the best possible outcomes for that child within his/her capability; and
- The child is in an inclusive setting for learning such as a traditional classroom where he/she is able to perform academically with or without support, but still struggles to fit in socially; or
- The child is in a specialized educational setting for learning such as a approved out of district placement, private school, or contained/resource setting where he/she receives support in all areas and has social success due to the specialized nature of that program.
- The child/teen has skills for basic social interaction, and generally, does connect initially with his/her peers;
- He/she is overtly gregarious; verbally calls out to and engages peers, attempts to establish friendships, and initiates peer interactions but lacks maturity, social awareness, or same age interest that can maintain those friendships on a level of equality, or;
- He/she is socially anxious; actively avoids social situations, is unusually quiet around peers or in public settings compared to a comfortable setting, finds it easier to connect with others online/remotely, and often has a limited but intense area of interest or interests that are shared by any connections the child does make, or;
- He/she is easily frustrated or intolerant; despite liking to be in the community and engage with same age peers, he/she is easily triggered by having to compromise, share, or cope with peers’ actions, can become too competitive, and has a tendency to over personalize and exaggerate ‘infractions’, and thus has a tendency to alienate potential friendships.
- The child/teen has had limited success or would not benefit from a neurotypical setting due to the demands of such a setting OR is not going to be to able to establish relationships of peer equality in such a setting, even if the adults in the program could meet his/her needs.
- The child/teen is markedly different in his/her social behaviors than peers of the same age, and while tolerated or accepted by neurotypical peers, currently lacks the ability to have a more in depth relationship with them. This is the most common experience of the Summit camper. He/she risks becoming an outsider, or someone who is just ‘along for the ride’- an experience which can be defeating and actually harmful to the Summit child/teen’s self esteem precisely due to their awareness of such rejection; or,
- The child/teen has significant challenges with learning or executive function that are carefully supported in the school setting, and thus it is unrealistic to expect them to function or get the most out of another independent situation where there are very few adults (counselors) that have an understanding of how to support such needs; or,
- The child/teen is keenly aware of his/her differences and thus too self conscious to establish peer relationships, has experienced peer and/or adult bullying related to their social challenges, has been rejected from or had a negative experience in a traditional program, or
has experienced an unequal experience of relationship (has been taken advantage of in the past).
Even with this detailed break down of the common experiences of our campers, it is still ideal to reach out to us and ask questions or discuss your goals and hopes for your child’s participation in a program like ours. There are a wide range of benefits that children and teens who have had the above experiences can take away from Summit, including increased independence and a boost of self-esteem. Yet, our primary goal for our campers and travelers is that they have an experience in which they feel comfortable, safe, and that they can finally “be themselves” with peers- not solely on a surface level but on a level of deeper connection. This is a true path to social development, and additionally, gives our campers an opportunity to create long term connections- either with individuals who share common interests and life experiences to their own, to sense of belonging to a very large community rather than being “the odd man out” or living on an island- or both.