Wilderness Therapy For ADHD in Youth
At Trails Carolina, we help youth and teens with ADHD find motivation and focus, strengthen their social skills, develop healthy peer relationships, reduce impulsive behaviors, combat peer pressure, and develop strategies to excel academically.
To treat ADHD in youth and teens, our therapeutic wilderness program leverages a distraction-free wilderness setting, individualized treatment planning developed by a team of dedicated and compassionate mental health professionals, mental health and behavioral therapy, accredited academics and experiential education, an intentional transitions model, and parallel family programming.
Learn more about ADHD in teens and younger children and how we equip our students with the tools to manage their ADHD symptoms, preparing them to grow into successful young adults.
What is ADHD?
Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a neuro-developmental condition characterized by persistent patterns of inattention, poor concentration, hyperactive symptoms, and impulsivity that significantly impact an individual's daily functioning.
ADHD can have a significant impact on academic performance, social interactions, behavioral and mental health, managing boredom, limiting screen time, and overall well-being when it goes undiagnosed and unmanaged.
The ADHD Brain and Executive Functioning
Youth and teens with ADHD often experience challenges with executive functioning, which refers to a set of cognitive skills necessary for goal-directed behavior and self-regulation.
The ADHD brain exhibits differences in certain brain regions and neurotransmitter systems that impact executive functions such as:
- working memory, and
- impulse control.
Neuroimaging studies have shown reduced activity in the prefrontal cortex, a region responsible for executive functions, in individuals with ADHD. This diminished activation contributes to difficulties in:
- sustaining attention,
- organizing tasks,
- managing time, and
- inhibiting impulsive behaviors.
This is why kids and teens with ADHD often struggle with prioritizing, planning, and executing tasks effectively.
By delving into the science behind ADHD, we gain valuable insights that guide our interventions, helping our students improve their executive functioning skills for a brighter future ahead.
Understanding the Impact of ADHD in Kids and Teens
While ADHD affects both younger children, teenagers, and young adults, and it can present differently based on age and gender. Understanding how symptoms of ADHD manifest differently in boys and girls of different ages is necessary for treating ADHD effectively.
Recognizing the Signs of ADHD in Girls
Girls with ADHD frequently exhibit milder behavioral issues and less conspicuous symptoms, which often results in their difficulties being overlooked and their lack of referral for evaluation or treatment. Unfortunately, this oversight can contribute to future complications. Here are some symptoms of ADHD to look out for in girls:
- Less pronounced hyperactivity: Girls with ADHD may exhibit less overt hyperactive symptoms compared to boys, making their symptoms less conspicuous.
- Inattentiveness: Girls with ADHD often display predominantly inattentive symptoms, such as daydreaming or difficulty focusing, rather than disruptive behavior, which is more common in boys with ADHD.
- Internalized symptoms: Girls are more likely to internalize their symptoms compared to boys, leading to increased anxiety, self-doubt, and emotional struggles.
Unique Challenges of ADHD in Young Girls
- Social difficulties: Girls with ADHD may struggle to maintain friendships and navigate social situations due to their inattentiveness or impulsivity.
- Low self-esteem: The internalization of symptoms and the resultant struggles may contribute to lowered self-esteem and feelings of inadequacy.
- Academic performance: Inattentiveness and difficulties with organizing and executive functioning can impact academic performance and create additional stress.
Unique Challenges of ADHD in Teen Girls
ADHD symptoms in teen girls may change and evolve, leading to new or heightened challenges:
- Academic demands: Increased academic expectations and complex assignments can pose greater challenges for teen girls with ADHD.
- Peer relationships: The impact of ADHD symptoms on social interactions may become more pronounced during the teenage years, affecting the formation and maintenance of friendships.
- Self-esteem issues: Teen girls with ADHD may struggle with feelings of inadequacy, particularly in comparison to their peers, impacting their self-esteem.
- Inattention persists: Teen girls with ADHD continue to experience difficulties with concentration and organization, impacting their academic performance.
- Emotional dysregulation: Hormonal changes during adolescence can exacerbate emotional dysregulation symptoms, such as mood swings and heightened sensitivity.
Recognizing the Signs of ADHD in Boys
Boys are more likely to receive an ADHD diagnosis than girls, not because girls are less prone to the disorder, but because ADHD symptoms tend to manifest more outwardly in boys. These symptoms can include:
- Hyperactivity: Boys with ADHD often display more visible hyperactive and impulsive behaviors, such as excessive talking, fidgeting, or difficulty staying seated than girls with ADHD.
- Disruptive behavior: Boys may exhibit externalized symptoms, including frequent interrupting, difficulty following rules, and impulsive decision-making.
Unique Challenges of ADHD in Young Boys
- Classroom behavior: Boys may struggle with disruptive behavior in the classroom, leading to academic and social consequences.
- Peer interactions: Impulsivity and hyperactivity can make it harder for boys to engage in positive peer interactions and maintain friendships.
- Physical activity: Boys with ADHD may have an intense need for physical activity, requiring outlets for their excess energy.
Unique Challenges of ADHD in Teen Boys
- Executive functioning difficulties: Teen boys may encounter challenges with time management, organization, and planning, affecting their academic performance and daily routines.
- Behavioral regulation: Impulsivity and difficulty regulating emotions can contribute to conflicts with authority figures and strained familial relationships.
- Driving and safety concerns: ADHD symptoms can affect a teen boy's ability to maintain focus and make sound decisions while driving, posing potential safety risks.
- Hyperactivity and impulsivity: Teen boys with ADHD may continue to struggle with hyperactive and impulsive behaviors, which can create challenges in school and social settings.
- Risk-taking behavior: Impulsivity and a desire for stimulation may lead to increased risk-taking behaviors among teen boys with ADHD.
Managing Symptoms of ADHD in Teens and Kids at Trails Carolina
By understanding how ADHD impacts different populations, we can foster greater awareness, support, and targeted interventions for individuals with ADHD, regardless of age or gender.
At Trails Carolina, we offer a comprehensive therapeutic wilderness program designed to support girls and boys between the ages of 10 and 17 in managing ADHD symptoms effectively. Our program incorporates various elements that contribute to the overall well-being and development of participants.
Through individualized treatment plans, a distraction-free environment, experiential education, and various therapeutic modalities, Trails Carolina empowers participants to develop coping skills, self-awareness, and strategies necessary to thrive while managing their ADHD symptoms effectively.
Holistic Therapeutic Approach and Dual-Diagnosis
We take a holistic approach to therapy, considering various aspects of each student's life and mental health.
For children and teens with ADHD, this approach can be particularly beneficial considering how ADHD manifests differently across age and gender.
By addressing co-occurring conditions or mental disorders, such as anxiety or depression, Trails Carolina ensures that participants receive comprehensive treatment for all their needs, ultimately improving ADHD treatment and symptom management.
Accredited Academics and Experiential Education
At Trails, we recognize that the ADHD brain responds to the classroom environment differently than a neurotypical brain.
By offering accredited academics, our students with ADHD can continue their education while receiving therapeutic support tailored to their specific needs.
Our academic program combines experiential education, such as hands-on learning and outdoor activities, which can be engaging and effective for youth and teens with ADHD, helping them develop academic skills, motivation, focus, and coping strategies simultaneously.
Individualized Treatment Plans
Trails Carolina recognizes that each individual with ADHD is unique and requires a personalized approach to treatment.
By providing individualized treatment plans, we can address the specific challenges and strengths of each of our students with ADHD.
This tailored approach allows for targeted interventions and strategies to support symptom management and overall growth.
Distraction-Free Wilderness Environment
The distraction-free wilderness environment provided by Trails Carolina serves as a conducive setting for individuals with ADHD.
Away from the typical distractions of everyday life, students can focus on developing attention and concentration skills. This environment promotes a structured routine and reduces external stimuli, allowing participants to better manage their ADHD symptoms and engage in therapeutic activities.
Natural horsemanship offered through our program involves interactions and activities with horses, which can be transformative for individuals with ADHD.
The structured and relational nature of natural horsemanship helps our students with ADHD develop emotional regulation, responsibility, and patience. These skills can enhance self-control and attention, leading to improved ADHD symptom management.
Mindfulness and Meditation
Practices such as mindfulness and meditation can significantly benefit individuals with ADHD by promoting self-awareness, emotional regulation, and improved focus.
We incorporate these techniques into our program, enabling our students to develop mindfulness skills and cultivate a sense of calmness and mental clarity, which can positively impact their ADHD symptom management.
Parallel Family Programming
Recognizing the importance of involving and educating parents, Trails Carolina offers parallel family programming. This aspect of our program ensures that parents of youth and teens receive support and guidance throughout their child's journey.
By involving parents, we foster a collaborative approach, equipping families with the tools and knowledge needed to support their child's ADHD management both during and after the program.
Focus on Transitions and Unique Transitional Model
Transitions can be particularly challenging for individuals with ADHD. At Trails Carolina, we focus on helping participants navigate transitions effectively through our unique transitional model.
By providing support during key transitions, such as moving from our wilderness expedition week to our base camp setting or returning home after graduation from Trails, we equip our students with the necessary skills and strategies to manage ADHD symptoms during these critical periods.
Multimodal ADHD Treatment Approaches
ADHD treatment often involves a multimodal or holistic approach that combines multiple interventions tailored to the specific needs of the child or teenager. In addition to the holistic ADHD treatment approach that we use at Trails Carolina, multimodal treatment strategies may include:
1. Behavioral Interventions
Behavioral interventions focus on modifying and managing the child's behavior through various techniques and strategies. They can be implemented both at home and in school, and may include:
- Parent Training: Educating parents on effective parenting techniques, establishing routines, implementing consistent discipline, and promoting positive behavior.
- Behavioral Therapy: Utilizing evidence-based therapeutic techniques, such as Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), to help the child develop coping skills, improve self-control, and manage impulsive behavior.
- School Support: Having students engage in classroom academics while at Trails allows them to develop new strategies and build their confidence in themselves as learners.
Medication may be recommended in cases where ADHD symptoms significantly impact the child's daily functioning and quality of life. Commonly prescribed medications for ADHD include:
- Stimulant Medications: These medications, such as methylphenidate (e.g., Ritalin) and amphetamine-based medications (e.g., Adderall), can help improve attention, impulse control, and hyperactivity.
- Non-Stimulant Medications: Non-stimulant medications, such as atomoxetine (Strattera) and guanfacine (Intuniv), are alternative options that may be prescribed when stimulant medications are not suitable or well-tolerated.
It's important to note that medication should be prescribed and monitored by a qualified healthcare professional experienced in ADHD treatment.
3. Educational Support
Children and teens with ADHD often require additional educational support to succeed academically. This may involve:
- Individualized Education Plan (IEP): Developing a customized education plan that outlines specific accommodations, modifications, and support services to meet the child's unique learning needs.
- 504 Plan: Implementing a 504 plan, which provides accommodations and support services to students with disabilities, including ADHD, to ensure equal educational opportunities.
4. Parent and Peer Support
Support from parents and peers can play a vital role in helping children and teens with ADHD cope with their challenges. This support can be facilitated through:
- Parent Support Groups: Connecting with other parents who have children with ADHD, sharing experiences, and gaining valuable insights and strategies for managing ADHD symptoms.
- Peer Support Groups: Engaging in support groups or therapy sessions with peers who have ADHD, fostering a sense of belonging, and providing a platform to share experiences and coping strategies.
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Trails saved my daughter’s life. Amanda is an amazing human and a brilliant therapist. I am so grateful to her, Science Steve, and the other wonderful people who could reach my daughter at a time when I could not.
Margot Lowman August 2022
Great life changing experience for our son. After becoming addicted to gaming during covid he was very depressed. At Trails he experienced the wilderness, Science Steve, learning survival skills and top notch therapy and support etc… I highly recommend! This gave our son and our family a renewed family bond full of love and excitement about his bright future.
Winnifred Wilson July 2022
Outstanding clinical work and superb staff! There’s a great culture at this company and it shows with how they engage with families/clients.
Kristin Brace June 2022