Success Stories: Chapter 13 – Camp Attaway
Camp Attaway is a one-of-a-kind therapeutic program, serving children ages 7 through 13 with complex emotional and behavioral disorders. Many of them carry multiple diagnoses including post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, fetal alcohol, attention-deficit/hyperactive disorder, autism, oppositional, and intermittent explosive disorders. The mission of this organization is to nurture the mind, the body, and the spirit of children who are at risk because of an inability to manage their emotions and behaviors. These children’s conditions place enormous strain on family and community resources and are often left out of community programs or left to fail in existing programs not designed to meet their specific needs.
Camp Attaway has been serving these special needs children for the last 23 years. The Camp is held in Howard County, Maryland and is in session from July 1st to August 15th each year. The organization’s award-winning therapeutic summer program provides children with individually tailored programs that promote learning and new ways of expressing themselves. The aim is to achieve growth and a better understanding of self and others at home, in school and in the community while having fun.
The children and families Camp Attaway serve face unique challenges and need specialized programs, including support programs. The Camp supports families by providing parent education and support groups conducted by a child psychologist. As a result, caregivers are better equipped to manage their child’s challenging behaviors that often include aggression to self and others. Since children feel most safe with their parents, often the parents are the targets of their child’s aggressions.
Highly trained individuals in the fields of special education, counseling, and psychiatry staff Camp Attaway. The ratio of camper to staff is 2:1. Children learn how to break out of their negative cycles and learn how to recognize and control their emotions and behaviors and make friends, while enjoying team sports, nature, art, rock climbing, and swimming. Children also work on self-regulation and learn how to recognize and manage their negative emotions. They learn and practice new coping and self-regulation skills.
In addition, Camp Attaway provides a Counselor in Training summer program. Former campers get 1:1 coaching and learn job skills that prepare them for future employment. Individual goals are set that include computer, office, and organization skills customized to their particular needs.
Camp Attaway supports the mental health of families by providing parent education and support groups led by a licensed social worker or psychologist. The organization also provides teaching and mentoring to staff so that learned skills are transferred for use in schools, recreation, and counseling programs year-round in the community.
The results are impressive. Children, parents, caregivers, and counselors attest to the life-changing and positive results of the camp experience. Here are some of the wonderful things that they had to say about Camp Attaway:
“It is difficult to explain to folks why or how your child is doing/behaving/thinking. We don’t have to explain at Attaway. The last weeks were probably the best weeks of fun for our son since last July at Attaway. At Camp Attaway our son doesn’t get to “collect” baggage to carry with him. He takes away improved self-image, positive perspective, more friends and fun. He “hit the lottery” again this summer and we “hold you” responsible for that success. We also thank you for helping us afford the camp.”
“Each day my child was excited to tell me his progress for the day. He was making his own goals for daily behavior.”
“Camp Attaway has been the single most beneficial experience in my son’s entire therapeutic plan. Not only do the kids have fun, but when conflicts or difficult situations surface, the children are coached on the spot on how to communicate and resolve problems.”
“Camp Attaway has helped me in my current job as a special education teacher in so many ways! The training we receive prior to camp taught me how to implement a variety of de-escalation strategies and helped me form habits of using positive behavior support.”
“As a psychologist, I am fortunate to have served on the Camp Attaway Board of Directors since the camp’s inception in 1996. Over the years, I have seen its effectiveness.”
“I am writing to share with you the positive impact Camp Attaway has had on both my son and our entire family. It is an extraordinary place that has changed our lives in more ways than you can imagine. My son has been fortunate enough to attend the past three summers and is literally the best thing that has ever happened to him. I love hearing about all of the positive things he’s learning, and how he sets daily goals and meets them, not to mention the amount of one on one time he gets with the phenomenal counselors. It is the ONLY place my son goes where he is not judged and can interact with other kids safely. We LITERALLY plan our summer around the camp dates because attending Attaway is our #1 priority.”
A Camp Attaway Success Story
“I am writing to you in support of Camp Attaway. Diagnosed at the end of first grade with ADHD and Autism, our son, Joey, struggled through elementary school. We received constant calls from school about Joey’s behavior. Although being in social groups during that time, nothing seemed to work. He was different than other children and was not invited to a single birthday party by his classmates. This made him very sad.
Other adults judged my husband and me as ‘bad parents’ because of Joey’s behavior. We sought help from a therapist through this whole time. Summers were a nightmare due to the need for camps- camps that could not appropriately care for our son. Finally, her therapist recommended Camp Attaway. What a God send!
At Camp Attaway, Joey began to learn to say hello to others consistently and use the terms ‘please’ and ‘thank you.’ He began to make friends and one of those friends made at Camp Attaway is a friend to this day, going all the way through high school with him. This began to raise his self-esteem.
As parents, we participated in the parent support group and learned so very much. We learned that we were not alone and that we were not bad parents. We learned how to manage Joey’s behavior and to remain positive when he did things we didn’t like, such as not thanking people for gifts during birthdays and Christmas and being demanding instead of saying ‘please.’ These experiences were powerful and I am pleased to say that Joey attended Camp Attaway for three years and then, having aged out, became a Counselor in Training for two more years assisting the Camp Attaway staff to teach others what he had learned.
Camp Attaway was a significant experience in Joey’s life as well as ours and I hope that many, many other parents can take advantage of this opportunity.
I hope that you will provide funding for Camp Attaway so that it may expand to serve lots more children with these issues. There is such a need and they do such a stellar job of it!”
The Qlarant Foundation provided a grant of $30,000 to support the work of Camp Attaway. “I am amazed at the life-changing results the Camp is providing for a population of children who are so often misunderstood and excluded from the normal childhood social activities”, said Molly Burgoyne, Chair, Qlarant Foundation. “The Board is pleased to be a partner in an activity that results in positive experiences for children.”