Summer Care for the Mentally Ill Child

July 29, 2010 Angela McClanahan

It's Summertime, and the livin’s...easy?

Maybe not. It used to be, until I became the parent of a school-aged "MI" child.dogpool

Our school district offers a terrific summer program—a month of enrichment classes followed by five weeks of summer day camp. Summer classes are meant to be more fun than strictly academic. Day camp features a different field trip every day. What’s not to love?

I can answer that...

Summer classes are blocked in two two-week sessions—three classes a day in session one, another three classes in session two. Students rotate through the classes, much like they will in middle school. It’s all good, unless your kid doesn’t respond well to change and prefers the boring routine of one classroom, one teacher, and one group of students.

Day camp is great--provided your kid doesn’t hate noise, chaos, and unpredictability. Even the awesome field trips require a long ride on a hot, crowded, noisy bus.

Not exactly the optimal environment for Bob.

icecreambar1I’ve looked for alternatives. Unfortunately, there don’t seem to be any. As expensive as the district program is, it’s still less expensive than what a private nanny would charge. And though I’ve searched high and low for a teenage girl with no hobbies, athletic ability or interest in boys, no such animal seems to exist.

Admittedly, this year has been better. This is Bob’s first summer being medically stable. The summer program is at a different school this year, and seems to be fairly well-organized and controlled.

I still wish there were cost-effective alternatives. There are programs out there for special needs kids—but Bob doesn’t qualify for them, either because he doesn’t have a “real” disability, or because he isn’t disabled enough. It’s a frustrating catch-22.

I suppose I will continue trying to win the lottery (but since I don't play, my odds aren't great). In the meantime, I’ll keep hunting for a teenage girl who wants to spend her summer hanging out with Bob. Wish me luck!

APA Reference
McClanahan, A. (2010, July 29). Summer Care for the Mentally Ill Child, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 25 from

Author: Angela McClanahan

Marjorie Fletcher
December, 20 2012 at 4:15 am

I'm the parent of a 17 year old with Bipolar and pdd. We live in Colorado and nothing exists for him. I'm a teacher and can't afford private programs. I want to start a program for these kids, but dont know if we would find support.

May, 7 2012 at 3:01 pm

I am also looking in to something for my son for the summer. We adopted him at 5 years old and he is now 13. He has become so unstable, he was hospitalized and is diagnosed with Bipolar, OCD, PTSD, ODD and attachement disorder. He has been in so much trouble at school. We have been utilizing all of the resources available to us but nothing seems to be working. I am actually looking in to starting my own summer camp for children with mental illness. I think it is so important for kids to have an escape from the demands of the daily life as well as give the parents a break for a bit. I work full time, went to college for human services management and want to continue into psychology. As frustrated as I am with the behaviors, I feels o bad for him and want to give him a break.

July, 31 2010 at 5:19 am

We are the parents of an 10 year with Bipolar, ADHD, OCD, PTSD, RAD and Anxiety. He is a week home from a year long stay in a hospital. We have been promised the world as far as support goes but everything always falls through. There is 1 camp here at the start of summer. Karen our life is and was the same as yours.

Karen Shoemaker
July, 30 2010 at 3:17 am

I am so happy to find your blog. My husband and I are the gaurdians of 7 yr. old twin boy and girl. Both have adhd, he has recently been diagnosed as bipolar. We think she is too. She also has sensory and anxiety issues. It seems no one truly understands what our life is like now. Every morning I get up and think, "Here we go again." We have no support. At least now I can come here and see what others are going through and how they handle it. At least now I won't feel quite so alone. Thanks.

Kathryn Richardson
July, 29 2010 at 2:54 pm

I understand. What I did was contact our local college's Special Education Department asking for volenteers to work with my son, take him on outings, and just be his friend. Special Education classes at most colleges give credits for this. If you can get more than one or two students to volenteer at different times during the week it is less stressful for them.
You can also post on the Special Ed's bulletin board.
Hope this was some help.

July, 29 2010 at 5:44 am

We struggle with this also. My son is 8 and has Bipolar Disorder and finding a summer program is near impossible where I live. They just don't have him.
I feel lucky that since having a baby 18 months ago I have been able to stay home during the summers with him, but I don't replace the social benefits of having him go to camp. And we have reached a point where I need to go back to the workforce.

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Angela McClanahan
July, 29 2010 at 10:38 am

Stephanie, I know exactly what you mean--it's great that you've been able to stay home with him, but on the other hand, he's missing part of the "normal" childhood experience and socialization. We simply can't keep them at home forever... And don't get me started on the difficulties involved with holding down a job--that's another post. :)

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