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ADHD in Children Health Center

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A Summer of Fun for Children With ADHD

A variety of day and sleep-away camps are helping children with learning disabilities blossom like a summer flower.

Rewards and Self-Confidence continued...

In a study published in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology in 2000, researchers compared children with ADHD taking medication alone with those taking medication and participating in an organized summer treatment camp. The study, conducted at the University of Pittsburgh and the University of California at both Berkley and Irvine, showed those children on the combined medication and activity regimen far exceeded those on medication alone in various behavioral categories.

Bart Hodgens, PhD, director of the Summer Treatment Program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, is offering the STP approach at their day camp for 5- to 18-year-olds with ADHD for the first time this year. He says he has high hopes that local children will respond favorably.

"We have a very high counselor-to-camper ratio, a lot of individualized attention, and programs that are designed to allow the children to recognize and understand their behavioral problems and then come away with some skills needed to change them -- all while participating in a variety of carefully planned and structured daily activities," Hodgens tells WebMD.

Indeed, a typical day at an STP program looks something like this:

8:00 - 8:15 -- Social skills training
8:15 - 9:00 -- Soccer skills
9:00 - 9:15 -- Transition
9:15 - 10:15 -- Soccer game
10:15 - 10:30 -- Transition
10:30 - 11:30 -- Academic learning center
11:30 - 11:45 -- Transition
11:45 - noon -- Lunch
Noon - 12:15 -- Recess
12:15 - 1:15 -- Softball
1:15 - 1:30 -- Transition
1:30 - 2:15 -- Arts and crafts
2:15 - 2:30 -- Cooperative tasks
2:30 - 2:45 -- Transition
2:45 - 3:45 -- Swimming
3:45 - 4:00 -- Transition
4:00 - 5:00 -- Computer skills
5:00 - 5:30 -- Departure

"We plan every minute, but that doesn't mean it isn't fun -- the activities are structured in a way that allows the kids to be fully engaged at all times. Ultimately, they are not only entertained and occupied, they also learn important coping skills that work in all areas of their life," says Hodgens.

Survivor: ADHD Style!

Taking the theory in a slightly different direction are sleep-away camps like Talisman, a North Carolina program for children aged 9 to 17 with ADHD, as well as a variety of other learning disabilities and behavioral problems. Based on programs developed by the nationwide Aspen Education Group, Talisman has been ongoing for nearly a quarter of a century. Director Linda Tatapough says structure, discipline, and positive reinforcement are the keys to its success.

"Our programs are designed to be highly structured and highly supervised -- one big difference from your typical summer camp. But we feel this approach is important for children with ADHD because if you give them too much freedom there are just too many choices -- and that leads to problems," says Tatapough.

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