Supporting Our Campers
Perlman Camp works hard to include campers with various emotional and social needs and abilities. The safety of every camper, the impact on the broader community, and our resources play a major role in determining who we can support during the summer.
Supporting Campers with Mental Health and Behavioral Needs
Partnering and planning for a successful summer
It is the policy of Perlman Camp to support, to the extent possible, campers with mental health and behavioral needs so they may have a successful summer.
While we strive to be inclusive to all campers, there are some limiting factors that play a role in our decision-making process as to who we can support: the safety of every camper, the impact on the broader community, and our limited resources. The decision about whether any camper may enroll in and/or remain at camp is at the sole discretion of the Camp Director.
General Concerns about MESH
- In evaluating if our resources may help a camper be successful and in order to determine our ability to develop a viable plan for the current summer, we focus on a camper’s well-being, their history, and any recent trends in their mental, social or emotional health. Some of the factors we consider include:
- How their overall progress has been going during the year.
- The timing of any significant events that have occurred.
- How the camp setting is similar or dissimilar to other situations, which may cause them stress.
- In evaluating what resources are available and the success of any potential plan, we also balance the impact on the broader camp community, which includes the amount of time and attention a counselor must give to an individual camper. Additionally, while we understand that our campers often want to lean on their peers or others in times of stress, there are times when that burden is more than can be reasonably expected from a peer.
Parents must inform the Camp Director about any significant MESH concerns during the enrollment process or as they arise any time prior to the start of the camp session. Parents should always err on the side of disclosure, knowing that we will maintain confidentiality and only share relevant personal information for purposes of supporting your camper during their time at camp. Once the summer season has begun, and a significant undisclosed need presents, it is highly unlikely that a camper can be accommodated in a successful manner.
When significant mental health concerns are disclosed before the summer, we will work with the camper’s family, pediatrician, and existing mental health team to evaluate if camp is the right setting for the camper and to create an action plan if it is determined that the camper should participate in camp. Our focus will be on the safety of the camper, the impact on the broader community, and whether the parents, mental health team, and camp staff reasonably believe, given our resources, that we can develop a plan that will ensure a successful summer. It should be noted that while we have mental health clinicians on staff for consultation, their role is not to provide individual therapy for campers.
How we may handle a variety of situations
Recognizing that each camper’s needs are unique, we look for indications that an individual camper will be successful in handling the vast majority of the camp’s day-to-day programming. If a camper cannot function in a percentage of the camp’s programs and/or requires intensive, individualized, one-to-one support to navigate each day, our resources may be unable to accommodate such a camper. It is important to know that while the way in which a situation has been handled in the past will likely inform us on how we handle that situation, it may not determine how that situation or a similar situation will be handled today or at some point in the future.
Below are some “common” MESH (mental, emotional, and social health) challenges.
- Social Aggression/Bullying: Using one’s social and/or physical power to target someone else repeatedly is never acceptable at camp. Children can be mean or have arguments or fight without it being bullying. All of these behaviors will be addressed while keeping in mind that some of these behaviors can also be age-appropriate misbehavior. We address behavioral needs by teaching missing social skills, empathy, and conflict resolution, and by partnering with parents and providing additional structure if needed. If behavior is repetitive with no improvement, the Camp Director and Camp Care Team reserve the right to send campers home and/or to not allow them to attend the next summer.
- Anxiety, Panic Attacks, or Depression: Many cases of campers with anxiety, panic attacks, or depression can be successfully managed at camp. Disclosing these needs prior to the start of camp is critical and allows our Camp Care Team to work with our staff to prepare them to respond appropriately. Sharing coping strategies and tools that have been successful with your camper enables our staff to work effectively and successfully with your child. In addition, we can provide opportunities for campers to take part in telehealth sessions with their personal therapist. In cases where a camper needs intensive one-on-one support to navigate the day, or the staff at camp do not feel the camper will be safe in the least supervised of times, we will be unable to accommodate that camper.
- Suicidal Ideation: Campers who express serious thoughts about hurting themselves will be evaluated by our Camp Care Team and Medical Staff with the help of the camper’s mental health team at home, if available. In most cases, Camp will not be able to accommodate these campers and they will be sent home.
- Cutting: Campers may not actively engage in self-harm while at camp. Disclosing any history of cutting or self-harm to Perlman Camp is essential to the camper’s success during the summer. Recognizing there are different “types” of cutting with different risks, close consultation between the camper’s mental health team at home and the staff at camp is essential before camp to ensure that camp is a good choice for the camper. Campers who engage in cutting behavior for the first time at camp or have not disclosed previous self harm behavior will most likely be sent home.
- Disordered eating: Sharing your camper’s history of disordered eating is essential to helping campers have a successful camp experience. While we are unable to monitor individual campers’ food consumption on a meal-by-meal basis, we can provide tentative camp menus, weekly weigh-ins, nutritional snacks, and access to speaking/video chatting with a therapist.
- Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder: Many, if not most cases of campers with ADHD can be successfully managed at camp. Disclosing an ADHD diagnosis and discussing with camp staff before the summer will enable us to work with you and your child’s support team, to plan for a successful summer at camp. Medication vacations are highly discouraged. Camp requires focus and impulse control to maintain peer relationships and participate in the daily schedule. Timely assessment will also allow us to decide which of our resources to utilize to support your camper including whether or not they may need 1:1 staff support throughout the session.
- Homesickness: It is normal for campers to experience feelings such as loneliness, sadness, and worry associated with missing their family and their at home routine, especially during the first couple of days at camp. Campers who are involved in the decision making process about choosing to come to camp are likely to feel more empowered to manage their homesickness.
- We expect that some campers will need extra support working through such feelings in the first few days. However, we also expect to see a positive arc of improvement as campers become more comfortable in the environment away from home and with daily camp routines.