Finding the Right Summer Program for Your Gifted Child

by: the Council for Exceptional Children
This article describes what criteria to consider when you are looking for the right summer program for your gifted child.

Finding the Right Summer Program for Your Gifted Child

Looking for the best summer program for your gifted child? Look no further! We've compiled a list of the questions to ask and the resources you'll need to make a match. Before you begin, be sure you've included your child in the selection process by asking her the kinds of things she's looking for in a camp. And remember, planning ahead is key! Most university-based programs have early deadlines and the most popular summer programs are bound to fill up early.

Questions to Ask
To make sure a camp or summer program is right for your child, it's important to ask program administrators these key questions. Be sure to include your child's questions and concerns as well.

1. How many children return each year? The number of children who return to a program year after year is generally an indicator of how much kids enjoyed the program.

2. How long does the program run? Programs vary from one to ten weeks. The length of a program affects both the overall cost and the skill level that can be achieved by the participants.

3. How old are program participants? Your child may not be comfortable if there is too large an age gap between him/her and other program participants.

4. Where do participants come from? Program participants may come from the local region or from abroad. Foreign participants can add interest to a program, or your child might feel out of place and overwhelmed.

5. What are the application requirements? In some programs, especially those in academics and music, these requirements can provide clues to the level of program difficulty. For example, a music program that requires a tape or audition may involve more difficult orchestral music than a program that takes any child who has had a year of lessons.

6. How many program participants are accepted? The overall number of participants, as well as the size of activity or study groups, affects the atmosphere of a program and the kinds of activities that are possible.

7. What is the ratio of teachers to participants? The lower the ratio, the more individual attention your child will receive.

8. What is the program leader's background? While there is no ideal background for a program leader or teacher, look for program leaders with experience in the field, the desire to work in a summer-program setting, and passion for their work.

9. What skills did previous participants come away with and which program activities helped develop them? Past program participants are often your best source of information when it comes to judging whether a program will meet your child's expectations and goals. Ask staff if you may contact the parents of other kids who've experienced the program.

10. Are the program courses "credit" or "non-credit"? A program's approach to credit is an integral part of its philosophy. Programs that do not grant credit encourage students to pursue a topic at length without being concerned about grades. Credit-granting programs view grades as a normal part of an academic experience.

11. Is there sufficient equipment to allow every child to participate fully? The quality of the facilities and the available equipment directly impact the level of your child's involvement. For example, at a computer camp, one computer for every two participants allows each child more work time than one computer for every five participants. This also applies to laboratory, art, drama, music, and sports equipment.

12. Does the program allow for unscheduled time? Your child may prefer to have every minute scheduled, or she may prefer a more relaxed pace that includes unscheduled free time.

13. To what extent are athletics or other recreational activities such as arts or drama offered or required? Some organizations require a daily hour or two of individual or team sports. Others view these activities as optional.

14. Are there planned social activities for the kids? Most programs plan informal group activities for participants to get to know each other. A few programs leave this up to the students.

15. What safety and medical provisions does the program have? Ask about the instructors' training and qualifications, the certifications or inspections the program has passed, and whether qualified medical assistance is available. Check to see if the camp is accredited by the American Camping Association.

16. Are there program scholarships available? If the price of a program prevents a student from participating, find out whether scholarships are available from the program or from local sources. Some summer programs offer partial scholarships to match local gifts. Some local or state parent advocacy groups provide scholarships based on either need or merit. Be sure to start looking for scholarships during the summer or fall before the program begins!